Changes in young people’s eating habits, tracked during the closure in England, show an increase in both snacks and families eating.
Researchers found that 60% of young people believed that more times of shared family meals were positive for health and wellness.
The guys in the study said they wanted to keep eating meals together.
The research, from Char’s Guy’s, St Thomas’s Charity, and Bite Back 2030’s Healthy Eating Charity, has studied over 1,000 from 14 to 19 years.
The co-chair of Youth for Bite Back 2030 is Christina Aden, a 16-year-old Londoner who prepared a petition for free school meals during the summer vacation, which was supported by soccer player Marcus Rashford.
“I don’t want to be victims of endless advertisements for fast food and celebrities who support things everyone knows are bad for us,” said Adane.
“I want to be part of a world where our health is the priority of the food industry.”
The banned eating study found contrasting trends for more unhealthy snacks, such as “grazing” on chocolate chips and chocolate, but also more common meals as families spent more time at home together.
He also found a widening social divide in healthy and unhealthy eating.
The report describes snacks as the “biggest negative outcome” in eating habits during the epidemic, with a 40% increase in snacks.
Young people in poorer families were “more likely to eat snacks, and less likely to eat fresh fruits and vegetables” than their wealthier counterparts.
A 16-year-old girl told researchers: “Some days I don’t eat much at all because I’m not hungry, but on other days I eat more things like chocolate, which I haven’t done much before.”
But there has also been a trend for more home-cooked food and families eating together in a way that was usually not possible.
“During this period, food allowed me to reconnect with my family, we cook together and enjoy meals together. I would like to continue to do so,” said a 19-year-old young woman in the study.
“I think I want to continue eating with my family, and make a lot of effort to do this, because we don’t usually do it, and it’s nice to sit together and eat,” a 18-year-old told researchers.
This increase in times of shared meals during the closure was greater among the affluent families – although there was also an increase among the disadvantaged families as well.
Most young people saw this as healthier and more social.
Sarah Hickey, director of the Childhood Obesity Program at the Jayes and St. Thomas Charitable Foundation, said she showed that the social divide in nutrition was getting worse during the closing period.
“Even before the epidemic occurred, food choices for families were strongly shaped by where they live and their socio-economic background,” she said.
“This research demonstrates that the inequality gap over access to nutritious foods has been further expanded by the closure of Covid-19.”