Background: Bad dietary habits, such as eating high-fat/high-energy food, can contribute to obesity in adolescents, which tends to persist into adulthood. The objective of this study was to determine the level and sources of knowledge about foods and healthy diets among male and female adolescents.
Methods: This was a cross-sectional study of a sample of male (n=1240) and female (n=1331) adolescents from third grade, intermediate and all three grades of secondary school students in the Al-Khobar Area, eastern province of Saudi Arabia. A self-administered questionnaire was used to collect information.
Results: Approximately 51% of the male and 65% of the female students recognized unsaturated fats as healthy foods. However, 10% of the males and 8% of females reported saturated fats as healthy food items. About 49% of the males and 66% of the females correctly defined cholesterol. Dietary knowledge of both male and female students on the dangers of unhealthy foods and the benefits of fiber-rich diets was found to be unsatisfactory. The main sources of knowledge about health and disease reported by the male and female respondents were television (58% and 61%, respectively), magazines (31% and 39%) and daily newspaper (33% and 34%). Primary health care centers (PHCCs) staff were the least source of knowledge (17% and 16%).
Conclusions: Knowledge of healthy diets among school students was inadequate. It is recommended that health education and information about healthy eating habits and lifestyle be included in school curricula.