Defining choice

Research shows that eating habits people pick up in their youth tend to track into adulthood, which makes the teenage years an important stage to start forming healthy habits. So rather than placing the full responsibility of food choice onto teens, more needs to be done to enable young people to make healthier choices.

This can include consulting with pupils to engage them in making decisions about the dining room environment and better food education. Reducing choices and streamlining menus has also been shown to improve healthier food choices.

Reducing choice” “enables young people to make healthier choices”.

After all, if all you’re offered is gruel then all you’ll eat is gruel.

48 thoughts on “Defining choice”

  1. “This can include consulting with pupils to engage them in making decisions about the dining room environment and better food education.”

  2. ‘Research’. Ah.

    What habits ‘track’ into adulthood depends on who is doing the cooking and available budget plus environment such as what your work/lifestyle is.

    The eating habits of students are notoriously different to the habits they picked up at home, once they become responsible for feeding themselves.

  3. Bloke In Westerville

    Reducing choices and streamlining menus has also been shown to improve healthier food choices.

    Yet another totalitarian shows her true colors.

  4. I don’t know enough about the psychological sciences for this to be anything more than speculation, but… Isn’t it at least counterintuitive that growing up with severely restricted choices would make you better at choice-making as an adult when faced with the almost infinite variety of food available in supermarkets, eateries and online? I’d have expected choice-making to improve with practice in conditions that are closer to realistic, whereas a transition from almost no choice to almost unlimited choice sounds like a recipe for disaster. Or is the idea here “if you only learn how to eat gruel, you’ll only ever order gruel”?

  5. -those words rings warning bells to me. Consultation exercise, gather feedback from the kiddiwinks, propose a new way to arrange the chairs and tables followed by some confirmatory back patting.

  6. ‘Research’

    “Commissioned by us to find what we wanted.”

    ‘shows that eating habits people pick up in their youth tend to track into adulthood, which makes the teenage years an important stage to start forming healthy habits.’

    Bullshit. Youth is for trying crazy things. ‘Healthy habits’ are for old people; they are wasted on the young.

    “We need to start asserting fascist control on people while they are still young, to condition them to accept it.”

    What they are actually saying. This really isn’t about food at all.

    ‘So rather than placing the full responsibility of food choice onto teens’

    It’s just food, you twits. But, generally, they must choose from what ADULTS have made.

    ‘Why are school lunches still so unhealthy?’

    UNHEALTHY? They could have used some of them unhealthy lunches at Dachau.

    Food is food. It cannot be ‘unhealthy.’ You don’t have to be a stupid statist to write for the Conversation, but it helps.

  7. Choice architecture: if we take away the option you want then we “nudge” you into choosing what we tell you to do

    Much more modern than simply bossing people around

    Most of nudge theory that is subtle does not have much impact which is why nudge has morphed into shove

  8. How true this research is! When I think of all the things I was given for school lunches that I’ve carried on relishing in my adult years.
    Stewed cabbage, mashed swede, rock hard peas, sausages that CMOT Dibbler himself would be proud of, the list is endless.

    Food research mostly = pseudo political garbage these days, especially when the recommendations are of the old, “you plebs are useless at making choices so us ‘experts’ will graciously condescend to make the choices for you,” variety.

  9. Bloke in North Dorset

    They think that getting teenagers to do something means that they’ll continue to do it? Good luck with that.

    The education system taught my son to be a rabid anti smoker and anti drugs. Guess what, he smoked like a chimney often including strong waccy baccy, that I know of.

    They taught him about the harms of of acohol to the point where the puritans would have been proud of hi. I’ve lost count of the number of times he’s drunk me under the table.

    As for food and diet. Mrs BiND has always been careful about that, probably more so than his school, but he still ate a shit diet when he left home, although now he’s in his 30s that’s changing.

    We’ve been teaching teenagers about sex and teen pregnancy since before I was at school, fat lot of good that’s done.

    These people are delusional if they think their going to persuade teenagers to go without experiment in life’s pleasures, and food is definitely on of them.

  10. Consultation exercises invariably mean someone is going to be forced to do something against their will. It seems the word consult bears no relation in practice to its dictionary definition. Maybe I should ask a consultant?

  11. One of my memories from childhood is when we had a friend round, and he had momentarily disappeared. He was swiftly found under a table with a box or tin of sweets, shovelling fistfuls of them into his pockets.

    He wasn’t bollocked, but my parents asked him why he was doing that.

    He sheepishly said that he wasn’t allowed sweets at home, so was trying to get a stash of ’em to hide away at home. And, kids being kids, you can bet they’d all have been gone in a day.

    I’m pretty sure that restricting something in early days will make kids much more prone to ‘having’ (eating, using etc) those restricted things in later life.

    Same with booze. We were exposed to booze a bit as kids (port and lemon?!), and therefore didn’t really seem verboten. Got a normal, healthy(ish) relationship with booze now.

    Mind you, there were no drugs around with my parents when I was a kid, and i never took that habit up either!

  12. Fact is that unhealthy food is tastier than boring stuff. Kids need energy cos they’re growing and running around in playgrounds playing war or football or whatever*.

    the healthy boring stuff comes on in your 30’s when your waistline starts to exceed your IQ (if you care enough to bother.)

    But we know these are just statist bloodsuckers justifying their next wedge from the long suffering taxpayer.

    *probably don’t do that any more now that toy guns are as verboten as real ones.

  13. @ witchie
    These youngsters measure their waists in centimetres.
    However I don’t think my waistline in cm has ever approached my IQ (it may have reached half for three or four brief periods)

  14. There are more than 91m school children worldwide now defined as living with obesity

    She starts off with a straight out lie. The paper referred to says that by 2025 91 million children are estimated to be obese.

    Just another example of The Conversation’s academic rigour from someone at Teesside Academy.

  15. @ Gamecock
    I think the young lady is doing research for a PhD in a subject almost unconnected with the faculty in which she teaches. So this is not a shill working for a propaganda group, she is writing about her own weird viewpoint.

    If it was the Grauniad I should be tempted to attribute them to malice but otherwise attributing errors to ignorance or stupidity is usually the best bet

  16. Eating habits in my youth? Always hungry. Would eat anything, healthy or otherwise. School lunches were dire, barely one step up from gruel, but you still went back for more. Home cooking was no different: more gristle than meat, heavy on the offal, vegetables boiled to a mush. No matter how much we ate, everyone remained as thin as a whippet. Joining the army at 16 was akin to winning the pools: a cookhouse that served great food on an all you can eat basis, morning, noon and night (and still stick thin). In my sedentary years I’ve become more circumspect, but still shovelling it down like a good ’un.

  17. “Fact is that unhealthy food is tastier than boring stuff.”

    You have causality reversed there. Anything you like is tagged unhealthy often completely without justification. Junk food is anything your mum takes less than twenty minutes to make.

  18. ‘There are more than 91m school children worldwide now defined as living with obesity’

    Better than living with my X.

  19. Ditto, I was stick-thin through school and until about 20-ish, shovelled down whatever was put in front of me. I only started putting on weight after coming home from Hong Kong and a period of unemployment, sitting at the computer writing my own entertainment.

  20. “I think the young lady is doing research for a PhD”

    They describe her as a ‘PhD Researcher.’ If she doesn’t have a PhD, i.e., is “doing research for,” the Conversation is lying.

    Escalation of credentials is a common practice in junk science reporting.

  21. If she is late to a restaurant, our youngest, now 21, is easy to order for. Garlic bread (cheesy if available) to start, chips for a main. Occasionally she has a side of steak with her chips.

  22. I’d say reducing choice in the early years makes for reduced choice in later life. I’ve had some experience in trying to feed Africans. Mostly from the western side countries. Third world poor have restricted diets. Mostly staples & a few bits & pieces. That’s all they’ll have seen. So you end up feeding them chicken, maybe bit of beef, rice & salad. A lot of western food they don’t even recognise as food & won’t eat.
    Don’t think the Brits were much different a couple generations back. Hence “that forrin’ muck”.
    Restricting choice in the early years can just make for picky eaters. Not healthy if half of what you can eat you can’t get

  23. I’ll take issue with you there, Mr in Spain. The Lud parents were born in ’43 and ’46. So rationing was formative for them. They became adults in the 60s and by the time they were old enough to start reaping the ordinary and just rewards of a life decently lived, the 80s came around and they blitzed and turbocharged it. The mater especially, had very little concept of self-control. It was like a pauper winning the lottery, or a footballer fed on rice and peas, then blowing it on coke, hookers and gaming tables*.

    * Before squandering the rest.

  24. Diff’nt strokes for diff’nt folks, M’Lud. My paternal grandparents hosted a tediously unimaginative table. Typically suburban middle-class. My father, born in the mid 20’s, was an equally unimaginative trougher. Was to his death.. F**k knows how he managed in the Army in the M.East. Lived on spuds & bully beef, I s’pose. Maternal side was Docklands, Multicultural & what went astray when the ships were unloaded. They’d eat anything. I take after Mum’s side but baulk at roasted locusts or monkey meat.

  25. My ten year old and her schoolmates were ‘consulted’ on a new meals provider, with a tempting range of tasty nosh brought in for them to sample. Thumbs up from kids and parents, contract duly awarded. The reduced choice of ‘healthy’ meals that are actually on offer are so bland and worthy that my not particularly fussy daughter won’t eat them, and I now have to fart around with packed lunches instead to keep her from passing out mid afternoon. And she’s not the only rebel. We are bombarded with so many hectoring email reminders of how wonderfully healthy and high value the school meals are that I suspect there’s a breach of contract thing in the offing.

  26. Bloke in North Dorset


    I’ve got a new definition of Chutzpah.

    After 30+ years, the past 15 or so as a subscriber, I let my Economist subscription lapse in May. They rang me and I explained why and said I didn’t want contacting again.

    They rang again today so I patiently explained why and that I wasn’t interested in renewing, even with £1 a week off. Then the conversation went:

    Them: Would you like to join our reader panel?

    Me: What’s that?

    Them: You help us improve by offering comments.

    Me: Will I get paid?

    Them: No.

    Me: So, lets get this straight, you want me to give up my time for free to help you improve your profits?

    Them: *laughs* I see your point.

    Fucking cheek, they’re meant to be the economists and haven’t heard that incentives matter.

  27. Well said Gus!!
    Why should anyone expect a kid to eat something tasteless?
    [Although tasteless would have been better than most of my school meals – I used to fill up on “Mother’s Shame” at breakfast].

  28. @ BiND
    The person calling you was a salesperson, not an economist, so not required to understand anything except how to sell.
    Salespeople are cheaper than economists, so The Economist does not hire economists as sales staff.
    I cannot remember exactly, but I think that when I gave up “The Economist” they contacted me to encourage me to continue but they were not as stupid.

  29. @ Gamecock
    One – I am still waiting for apology re WWI
    Two – PhD researcher means “doing research for a PhD” not “a PhD doing research” – someone already holding a PhD would be described as “Dr X”
    Years ago I was ***-off with grade inflation but it’s unfair to blame her for something that predates her birth.

  30. Bloke in Lower Hutt

    “OK Greta, we’ll spend a trillion quid fixing up this problem only you can see but no you can’t put salt on your celery cos it’s bad for your blood pressure”*

    *overheard soon in the House of Commons cafe

  31. Bloke in North Dorset


    Yes, but they are given an approved script by the client, in this case The Economist.

  32. School Dinners at my Prep & Grammar School had one: choice eat it or don’t eat it; same at home.

    “Consult and engage with children” – no, that is why we have problems in school; do as above.

  33. All to deal with a problem we don’t measure properly.

    There is something in there that is worth researching, but isn’t, which is the question of which years of your life are most formative. Whether it’s forming loving relationships, appreciating a varied diet, taking some exercise, being grateful for your parents, organisation, teamwork, discipline, punctuality, creativity, and all the rest of the virtues, is there any one period of say 5 years which is the most formative? I suspect it’s the first 5, but who really knows. Still it’s odd to be asserting that the teenage years are the best for interventions, without having the evidence to back it up.

  34. I met an elderly teacher when I was doing teacher training. She told a story of her boarding school where you simply were not allowed to not finish your food at mealtimes (unfinished lunch would reappear at dinner).

    Luckily they had a classmate who had lost a leg in an accident and had a hollow prosthetic so they used to scoop food into it and walk out.

  35. My great-grandfather was a company sergent major, joined up as a cook and worked his way up as company cook. I have his hand-written recipe book. In the 1910s standard Army stodge was:
    Meat & Potatoes with onions and peppers
    Meat & Haricot beans with onions and peppers
    Meat & Blue peas with onions and peppers
    Meat & Yorkshire Pudding
    Meat stuffed with onions, parsley and pepper
    Brown Curry & Rice with mixed veg
    Meat & Onion Pie with peppers
    Plum Cake with currants and raisens
    Sultana Cake, as above but swap plums for sultanas
    Seed Cake, as above but carraway seeds
    something that looks like Lorne Cake
    Swiss Jam Rolly

    Everything is neatly numbered to have different combinations in rotation, and is not much different from my school meals in the 1970s.

  36. When I was involved in the care of boarders, I tried to introduce them to cooking, but was prevented, by health and safety. No wonder they reach for fast food when they have to fend for themselves.

    My school-days were hungry days. Not because I was deprived, but because I used up so many calories.
    Where have all the fun sports gone? I only used the gym as a means to improving a sport. But now…?

  37. @jgh

    That’s really interesting – is “Lorne cake” a typo for something?

    Loved the posts by Bongo, Andrew C and Nautical Nick too, thanks!

  38. jgh, I’m very surprised at peppers being so prominent in 1910.

    I don’t think we even had the big, mild, sweet peppers then (pretty sure they’re a later breed), so it would have been the smaller, fairly hot, chilli peppers.

    Was this perhaps something the British Army brought back from India?

  39. Anectdata follows:
    As a teenager I was subjected to a standard Midwestern fare; meat, starch, vegetables, salad for dinner. As soon as I left home it became pot noodles, 25 cent frozen burritos, burgers and beer. A lot of that had to do with finances. It took quite a few years to return to a more balanced diet.
    So much for imprinting.

  40. My diet is almost entirely different from the one that I had growing up. I don’t recall that school dinners were too bad but they tended to be typical British fare. Home was the same really, dad didn’t go for anything foreign or the slightest bit exotic. Now I’m much more cosmopolitan but still have a traditional English dinner from time to time.

  41. “Now I’m much more cosmopolitan but still have a traditional English dinner from time to time.”

    I’ve been fortunate and have spent a good part of my life criss-crossing the world in an aeroplane, eating all and everything in my path. Returning home to a plate of mince and tatties is up there with the best.

  42. My school dinners weren’t bad but were basic. I left at 16, an underweight runt at 5’6″ and joined the Merchant Navy (Sunday dinners every day and Christmas dinner on Sunday. Even the breakfasts were 6 courses!) Two years later and I was a strapping 6 footer. A lot of what you like does you good.

  43. “That’s really interesting – is “Lorne cake” a typo for something?”

    Dunno, you can try and make it out yourself here.

  44. “There are more than 91m school children worldwide now defined as living with obesity”

    Statistics 101: Is this a big number?

    Current global population 7.2 billion approx, proportion under 14, 26%

    91 million is 1.2 % of global population

    So, less than 1 in 20 (accepting the given dates are different but I susopect demographics wont change that much in the next 5 years)

    Nope, not a big number

  45. “The only time you should ask your kids what they want to eat is when they’re paying.”

    I’m afraid I can’t remember who the quote was from.

  46. @jgh – thanks, that’s brilliant!

    I collect old recipe books. I think that one deserves to be published, not sure what the market would be like for it though the military aspect and link to WW1 might garner a bit of interest.

    It does look like “Lorne cake” – presumably after the Scottish region that’s rather better known for its sausage. But there are very few google hits for that name, even though caraway seed cake has been around for several centuries.

    Someone has blogged a family recipe book from Cornwall, circa 1900 so pretty much contemporaneous:

    Lorne Cake

    ½ lb flour
    ½ lb butter
    ½ lb sifted sugar
    1 tablespoonful milk
    2 tablespoons grated chocolate
    2 oz currants
    1 teaspoon lemon essence
    1 teaspoon vanilla essence
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    ½ tsp cinnamon
    2 oz Valencia raisins stoned and chopped
    3 eggs.

    Beat butter and sugar to a cream, then add eggs and milk and flour mixed with the baking powder. Beat well. Divide the mixture into three parts and to each part: 1. Add the fruit and cinnamon, 2. Add the chocolate and vanilla, 3. Add the lemon essence. Bake. Cover with almond icing and afterwards with plain icing. Particularly good with no icing.

    The blogger’s guess is that “I can’t find a definitive origin for Lorne cake but it may have been invented for the marriage of the Princess Victoria to the Marquis of Lorne in 1871. A marriage that caused raised eyebrows because he was so lowly born!”

    The dates would be OK and it would explain why I can’t find any older references to Lorne cake – and indeed if it was a fad, any newer ones either! – though it is clearly speculative. I’m also not convinced that her and your relatives are referring to quite the same cake…

  47. Alternatively I wonder whether “Lorne” is a flavour allusion to Scottish festival bannocks:

    “A lot of the time the smaller festival bannocks, made for individuals, would be seasoned with things like caraway, various types of berries and honey.6 More modern versions tend to be sweeter variations of the traditional savoury recipe, which usually have dried fruit, sugar and spices added and tend to have more of a cake-like consistency than bread or biscuits. More often than not with these more modern recipes, wheat-flour is used as the main ingredient, rather than oatmeal, which is sometimes omitted altogether, reflecting the evolving tastes and farming practices as wheat became more widely available. ”

    There was considerable local variation including a version in Lorne:

    “‘These cakes or bannocks…’ says Frazer, ‘were oatcakes baked in the usual way, but washed over with a thin batter of whipped egg, milk and cream, and a little oatmeal.’ They were made thus at Kingussie (Inverness-shire), at Keith (Banffshire), at Logierait (Perthshire) and elsewhere. In some places, however, the batter or caudle appears to have been eaten separately. ‘In Glenorchy and Lorne,’ Ramsay of Ochtertyre tells us, ‘a large cake is made on that day (Beltane) which they consume in the house, an in Mull it has a large hole in the centre, through which the cows are milked. In Tiree it is of triangular form.’ In Logierait, as we have seen, it was scalloped round the edges, presumably to symbolise the rays of the sun. At Achterneed, near Strathpeffer, in Ross-shire, the Beltane bannocks were called dearnagan or hand-cakes, because they were kneaded by hand, and not on a board or table like common cakes; and after being caked, they might not be placed anywhere but in the hands of the children who were to eat them.”

    The Mull variant with the cows milked into it sounding particularly appetising…

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