In 1986-1987, more than 30,000 adolescents completed the Minnesota Adolescent Health Survey, a comprehensive assessment of adolescent health status, health behaviors, and psychosocial factors. Although the survey included relatively few items on nutrition-related issues, a wealth of knowledge about adolescent nutrition was gained. Lessons learned from a decade of subsequent analyses of data collected in the survey and implications for working with youth are summarized in this article. Major concerns identified included high prevalence rates of inadequate intake of fruits, vegetables, and dairy products; unhealthful weight-control practices; and overweight status. For example, inadequate fruit intake was reported by 28% of the adolescents and inadequate vegetable intake was reported by 36%. Among female adolescents, 12% reported chronic dieting, 30% reported binge eating, 12% reported self-induced vomiting, and 2% reported using diuretics or laxatives. Some of the risk factors for inadequate food intake patterns or unhealthful weight-control practices included low socioeconomic status, minority status, chronic illness, poor school achievement, low family connectedness, weight dissatisfaction, overweight, homosexual orientation among male adolescents, and use of health-compromising behaviors. To improve adolescent eating behaviors, the results suggest a need for innovative outreach strategies that include educational and environmental approaches. Dietitians play a key role in developing interventions and promoting research in the field of adolescent nutrition.
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