Introduction There are several factors that can influence food choices. In children and youngsters, parents play an important role in the construction of food preferences. This influence is especially relevant in childhood but it seems to extend throughout adolescence. Objective to characterize the association between the household habits and the food choices of adolescents. Method This is a quantitative and qualitative study. In a first moment, data collection (quantitative) was made by the Eating Habits Scale (EHA). Students from two schools of Coimbra (10th to 12th grade) were asked to complete the EHA. Thus, it was possible to characterize adolescents according to adequacy of eating habits. Then, for the qualitative study, we selected the students according to the best (more appropriate habits) and the worst (bad habits) score EHA obtained. These adolescents were interviewed about their food preferences, including on food choice in different contexts (at home, in school and outside the home), household habits and reasons of the choices. Were also asked about perceptions of risk associated with eating habits, decision before the urge to eat and, finally, about the intentions of changing habits. A content analysis was made, using line-by-line coding method according to Charmaz and axial codification (using MaxQDA software). Results The census of students was invited to participate in the survey, reaching a sample size of 358 students, aged 14 to 18 (mean = 15.78, standard deviation = 1.05; 46.9% boys). The average score on itens of EHA (likert 1-5) was 3,434 (standard deviation 0.346) with mean between 2.15 and 4.3. Among the adolescents, the total score obtained in the EHA ranged between 86 and 172 (possible values between 0 and 200), with an average of 137.4 (standard deviation = 13.85). There were no significant different eating habits according to each age group or socioeconomic stratum, with the girls to take more appropriate food choices (higher scores EHA). The group of adolescents with proper habits (EHA average 3.75-4.3; EHA scores between 150 and 172), includes eleven students. The group of inadequate habits (EHA average 2.65-3.125; EHA scores between 106 and 125), includes 17 students. Adolescents with proper eating habits describe the parenting style as more interventionist than those reported by adolescents with bad habits. This parents' influence is operationalized in several ways: through authoritative style, through behavioral examples (by parents), and/or through negotiation or control of food availability at home. From content analysis we also infer that parents/families of adolescents with low scores in EHA tend to have unhealthy eating habits. Registration of feelings of well -being associated with dietary patterns is common among adolescents with proper habits; among adolescents with inadequate habits, we found conformity, without developing an active remediation attitude as, for example, initiative to change habits, even occasionally. The results point to the need for education interventions among youngsters with particular focus in developing appropriate household eating behaviors, in addition to educational interventions directed only to youngsters.
- Food Choices