An investigation of the effect of nutrition education on eating behaviors
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This study assessed whether an 8-week nutrition education program, "What's On Your Plate," promoted healthy eating behaviors among 5th grade students. Previous studies found this program to be appropriate for students up to grade 4. It was initially developed for students in grades 1-5; however, its use for 5th grade children had yet to be assessed. In order to extend evaluation to an older group, the study was limited to a convenience sample of 67 5th grade students enrolled in a public school in northern Illinois. Experimental and control groups were chosen by random sampling. There were 37 students in the experimental group and 30 in the control group. The experimental group received the nutrition education for 40-60 minutes per session for 8 weeks. Diets were analyzed in both groups of students before and after the 8-week program by the use of 24- hour recalls. The students' intakes were compared to the Food Guide Pyramid recommendations. Mean, standard deviation, independent samples /-test, and ANCOVA were used to assess the effectiveness of the nutrition education program. Initially the grain intake for both groups was within the recommended 6 to 11 servings per day but then dropped below the range at the post test. There was no significant effect on fruit, vegetable, or fat intake. Both groups consumed inadequate amounts of fruits and vegetables at pre and post tests. A decrease in fat intake was noted in all subjects. The control groups showed an improvement in meat intake while the experimental group's intake declined. There were significant improvements for the experimental group's intake for dairy and sweets. It is unclear why there were negative changes in grain and meat intake. The nutrition education program did have a positive effect on the students' dairy and sweets consumption. Further attempts to promote positive eating behavior changes may include school lunch modifications, physical activity interventions, parent involvement, and constant nutrition education. Nutrition education in schools needs to be a continuous effort in order to be truly effective.