Ecological Model and Eating Habits of School-Aged American Children
The ecological model can be used to increase understanding of eating habits, especially among adolescents. This model examines the influences of individual, social environment, example, peers, physical environment, example, school, and macro-system factors on behaviors. At the interpersonal level, a household is an important place in which to target a child’s eating habits. Involving the entire family in interventions that target both the nutrition and physical activity of a child plays a significant role in managing his or her eating habits. Parents have an influence over the food choices and exercise habits, of the family. Peer relations, affect children’s eating habits, through expectations and social norms.
At the institutional level, schools, provide a good setting for shaping children’s eating habits, because children spend a large amount of their time there. For example, exposing children to skills needed to make informed choices around food and physical activity, providing them with opportunities to engage in physical activities during the physical education classes, and providing them with proper nutrition foods while at school, will significantly assist in achieving proper nutrition for children. In addition, students should be provided with information on healthy choices, as well as offering classes on meal preparation and school gardens, in which to grow the appropriate foods.
At the policy level, there are several opportunities to make changes to laws and systems that could improve the environment in which children eat. Such policies include enforcing zoning laws that regulate the location of restaurants and grocery stores and devoting funds toward health education campaigns. Furthermore, implementing the Childhood Nutrition Act will significantly improve the food environment for children, and encourage healthier choices, as this act regulates schools’ food policies and resources.