Understanding the Decline in Milk and Milk Alternatives Consumption Among Secondary School Students in Ontario, Canada: A Qualitative Investigation
MetadataShow full item record
Milk products are the most readily consumed food source of calcium among Canadians, yet milk and milk alternatives (MMA) consumption has declined over the past decade, and the prevalence of calcium inadequacy is high (Cluskey et al, 2015; Vatanparast et al, 2020). Little research has been carried out to understand reasons for this decline, especially in the Canadian context. The research objectives are to determine where youth obtain health information, explore their perceptions of MMA, and contextualize salient trends in survey data which indicate declining MMA consumption among Ontario youth. Semi-structured interviews, rooted in the Theory of Reasoned Action, were held with secondary school students (n=28; 43% women) from 6 census divisions in Ontario. Utilizing the photo elicitation method, participants were asked to discuss pictures of school vending machines to understand how students make food decisions within the school context. Transcripts were thematically analyzed via deductive and inductive approaches. Health class was an important source of health information for participants. Despite its reported low credibility as a source of health information, findings indicate that social media may be in part responsible for driving the observed trends in MMA consumption, as adolescents feel pressure to conform to gendered body ideals. Results indicate that a combination of egoistic (e.g., perceived taste, nutritional value) and altruistic (e.g., perceived environmental impacts) attitudes both motivate and deter adolescents when making food decisions including MMA, which may contribute to cognitive dissonance. Age- and place-based perspectives were considered, but differences did not emerge between subgroups. In efforts to increase MMA consumption among young Canadians, it may be beneficial to enhance health curricula by incorporating unbiased and truthful information about MMA. Future research should examine in more depth the role cognitive dissonance plays in dietary decision-making, and efforts to increase MMA consumption should aim to reduce cognitive dissonance among consumers. More research to understand how adolescent women make food decisions that are focused on health benefits is needed, as body image still appears to be driving food decisions among this demographic.
Cite this version of the work
Carise Thompson (2021). Understanding the Decline in Milk and Milk Alternatives Consumption Among Secondary School Students in Ontario, Canada: A Qualitative Investigation. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/16720