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C. Ribeiro1, C. Mesquita2, M.J. Rodrigues2, R. Lopes3

1Instituto Politécnico de Bragança (PORTUGAL)
2Research Center in Basic Education, Instituto Politécnico de Bragança (PORTUGAL)
3Research Center in Digitalization and Intelligent Robotics, Instituto Politécnico de Bragança (PORTUGAL)
The focus of this study is on the promotion of healthy eating habits and of the awareness of the influence advertising has on these choices.
Since the second half of the twentieth century, it has been recognized that the eating habits of the entire population have changed. In particular, high levels of sugar, fat and salt are common in many of today’s food options. Several factors have influenced this change, among which are the media, the power fast-food type and more sedentary lifestyles. These dietary and sedentary habits, have contributed to the increase of children’s obesity. This problem has received the attention of several entities, among which the World Health Organization (WHO).

Considering that school plays a fundamental role in helping children to be aware of the marketing and advertising influence and consequently contributing to the inhibition of harmful eating habits, this study seeks to understand what educational strategies and practices could contribute to the creation of healthier eating habits on children and their families. In this context, the main objective of this study is to understand the influence of the media on the dietary choices of children and their families and to analyze the impact of educational strategies promoting healthy eating habits in children's awareness.

This study was carried out with two groups of children: one of pre-school education with 5 years old, and another with children with 6 and 7 years old attending the 1st year of basic education. Considering the nature of this study, a mixed quantitative and qualitative perspectives were used. The quantitative data were collected from a questionnaire applied to the parents and analyzed statistically. Qualitative data were collected using direct and participant observation, field notes recorded in the course of action and children's productions. All these data were submitted to content analysis, to better understand the phenomenon under study. There are several similarities with action research, since it seeks to understand the school and family contexts and implement actions in order to about it, although it does not observe cycles of investigation, because of the short time-horizon in which it was developed.

The interpretation was performed through triangulation of the data. This reveal that there is a set of foods that meet children's food preferences although not always healthy. It is observed that children are influenced by the media, since publicized food is frequently among their preferred. It is proven that the media advertise, essentially, food rich in sugars, fats and salt. It turns out that many parents or other caregivers do not recognize such influence, either in themselves or in children. The experiences of learning, the discussion and the reflection have helped children to become more aware of the effects of advertising on their food’s options and on the importance of making the best choices in their diet.