Impact of nutrition education in high school students

Leticia Cortez, University of Texas at El Paso


The diet of adolescents is typically high in calories, fat, and saturated fat and often fails to meet the daily recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables, and calcium-rich foods. The frequent consumption of unhealthy diets in combination with the lack of physical activity has resulted in a high prevalence of obesity worldwide. Approximately 17% of adolescents in the United States are obese. Obesity is a common risk factor for the development of chronic disease such as heart disease and diabetes. In the last few decades and along with a high prevalence of obesity there has also been an increased prevalence of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart diseases among adolescents. Nutrition education can play an important role in the adoption of healthy eating habits and in the prevention of chronic diseases by increasing nutrition knowledge of participants. The objective of this study was to assess the impact of a classroom-based, interactive nutrition education program with emphasis on the prevention of chronic diseases in the nutrition knowledge of high school students enrolled in a science course. A prospective nutrition education intervention, using pretest-posttest quasi-experimental design with control group was conducted. A total of 88 participants ages 17.5 ± 0.8 years were assigned to the control (n= 39) and intervention (n = 49) groups. A 35-item nutrition knowledge test and 3-day dietary records were completed at baseline and posttest. Students in the intervention group received three nutrition lessons. A post-intervention survey that assessed behavior change was completed by participants after being exposed to the intervention. Statistical analyses were conducted to determine impact on nutrition knowledge and dietary intake of selected nutrients at two time points (pre versus post). Means and Standard Errors for correct responses on the nutrition knowledge test controlling for prior nutrition knowledge of participants was significantly different (p<.001) for participants in the intervention group. Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, and folate were not met at either baseline or posttest for females and males in both groups. Ninety four percent of participants in the intervention group appeared to have formed positive behavior intentions towards adoption of healthy eating habits. An interactive nutrition program taught to high school students enrolled in a science class increased their nutrition knowledge and also appeared to positively impact students' behaviors. Nutrition education could be incorporated in the high school science curriculum to help students make informed decisions about their dietary intake.

Subject Area

Nutrition|Public health

Recommended Citation

Cortez, Leticia, "Impact of nutrition education in high school students" (2012). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI1512560.