Public Health Nutrition

Research Paper

The effects of a middle-school healthy eating intervention on adolescents' fat and fruit intake and soft drinks consumption

Leen Haerensa1a2 c1, Ilse De Bourdeaudhuija1a2, Lea Maesa3, Carine Vereeckena3, Johannes Bruga4 and Benedicte Deforchea1

a1 Department of Movement and Sports Sciences, Ghent University, Watersportlaan 2, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium

a2 Policy Research Centre Sport, Physical Activity and Health, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

a3 Department of Public Health, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

a4 Department of Public Health, Erasmus University Medical Centre, Rotterdam, The Netherlands


Objectives To evaluate the effects of a middle-school healthy eating promotion intervention combining environmental changes and computer-tailored feedback, with and without an explicit parent involvement component.

Design Clustered randomised controlled trial.

Setting Fifteen West-Flemish (Belgian) middle schools.

Subjects A random sample of 15 schools with 2991 pupils in 7th and 8th grades was randomly assigned to an intervention group with parental support (n = 5), an intervention group without parental support (n = 5) and a control group (n = 5). In these 15 schools an intervention combining environmental changes with computer-tailored feedback was implemented. Fat and fruit intake, water and soft drinks consumption were measured with food-frequency questionnaires in the total sample of children.

Results In girls, fat intake and percentage of energy from fat decreased significantly more in the intervention group with parental support, compared with the intervention alone group (all F>3.9, P < 0.05) and the control group (all F>16.7, P < 0.001). In boys, there were no significant decreases in fat intake (F = 1.4, not significant (NS)) or percentage of energy from fat (F = 0.7, NS) as a result of the intervention. No intervention effects were found in boys or in girls for fruit (F = 0.5, NS), soft drinks (F = 2.6, NS) and water consumption (F = 0.3, NS).

Conclusions Combining physical and social environmental changes with computer-tailored feedback in girls and their parents can induce lower fat intake in middle-school girls. However, to have an impact on the consumption of soft drinks and water, governmental laws that restrict the at-school availability of low-nutritive products may be necessary.

(Received September 13 2005)

(Accepted February 15 2006)


c1 *Corresponding author: Email