Healthy Eating as Perceived by Thai Adolescents in Public Schools, Bangkok, Thailand
Keywords:Healthy eating, Thailand, adolescents, perspective
Unhealthy food consumption during adolescence increases the risk of non-communicable diseases and can decrease quality of life in adulthood. This study employed a qualitative descriptive design to describe the meaning of healthy eating from the perspectives of adolescents enrolled in secondary public schools in Bangkok and their food choices for healthy eating. Through purposive sampling, 30 participants participated in in-depth interviews. Data were analyzed using content analysis. Four themes emerged that reflect healthy eating as perceived by the Thai adolescents. The first theme was consciously following a healthy eating pattern by consuming more vegetables and fruits, drinking high calcium milk, avoiding foods high in fat, sugar, and sodium, as well as energy drinks and alcoholic beverages. A healthy “plate” included red meat, rice, fat, and vegetables, with no meal skipping. The second theme entailed avoiding foods perceived to be hazardous by consuming safe foods, including organic foods, while avoiding foods contaminated with toxins and chemicals, recycled cooking oils, and burnt foods. Balancing food intake and energy expenditure refers to proper food consumption in accordance with daily activities. The third theme was selecting foods based on nutrition labeling by reading, understanding, and making food choice decisions, including information on serving size, portion size, ingredients, and expiration date. The fourth theme was food as health promoting by obtaining necessary nutrients from healthy foods. Results suggest approaches to develop guidelines for Thai adolescents in urban public schools that include food based dietary patterns, food ingredients, and reading food labels for healthy eating.
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