Children nutrition in the Mediterranean basin: A comparative case study between Spain and Greece

Christina Kleisiari, Leonidas-Sotirios Kyrgiakos, Spyros Niavis, George Vlontzos1


The present study evaluates students' consumption habits for fruits, vegetables and meat, identifying the main factors influencing parents’ choices on these products for their children's nutrition. Additionally, it was assessed whether these factors are influenced by their socio-economic profiles. Based on literature review findings and following the Health Belief Model and Theory of Planned Behaviour rationale, a questionnaire was designed and distributed to a total sample of n=329 parents in Greece (n=197) and Spain (n=132). The major finding reveals that, fruit and vegetable consumption is considered as low in both countries, compared with the minimum recommended quantities. More specifically, it appears that only 24% of children in both countries consume fruits on a daily basis, while more than 1/3 of the total sample states that their children consume fruits on a frequency of less than 3 times a week. Their responses about vegetables verify that only 6.5% of children include vegetables in their meals more than 5 times a week, while more than 80% declared that their children eat vegetables less than 3 times a week. The comparison between them showed increased fruit consumption from the Spanish side. Meat consumption exceeds the upper limits of adequate frequencies, with the responses from parents in both countries to indicate that its consumption may in some cases exceeds nutritionists' recommendations. Pork and chicken are more preferable by Greek and Spanish children, which they are consumed at least once a week, verifying previous surveys on the same topic.
Principal Component Analysis (PCA) was used to identify the most significant factors influencing parents' attitudes about the aforementioned food groups they purchase for their children. According to overall sample results, place of origin and the food safety measures taken, are the most crucial factor affecting parents’ choices. Degree of convenience and ease-to-consume (in terms of time and money) are forming the second factor. Social pressure from friends and family for the supply of these foods, nutritional value and health benefits, are additional factors influencing parents’ choices. Samples from each country have been analysed separately, reaching to the same factors for both countries. However, the order of importance follows a different order, showing that the country of origin of the respondents formulates the order in which factors appear. Socioeconomic characteristics have been assessed too, in order to verify statistically significant differences between different factors. Number of children, parents’ educational level, family income and financial support from relatives should be taken into consideration for parents’ final decisions. These results can be utilized so as to clarify parents purchasing attitudes, depending on their demographics, and propose a unique marketing plan focusing on supporting the promotion of healthy nutritional habits to the upcoming European citizens.

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ISSN 2194-511X


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