A new study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals that a adolescents will eat healthy foods if they believe they are ”sticking it to the man.” When given accurate information, for example, about how the food industry engineers junk food to make it addicting and engages in deceptive marketing practices aimed at young children, teens will mobilize their age appropriate rebellious attitudes toward unfair authority and begin to eat healthy natural foods. This practice then contributes their own self-concept as being an autonomous individual worthy of the admiration of one’s peers (e.g. a food rebel). This type of approach to adolescent eating habits is superior to the traditional strategy of giving objective information about unhealthy food habits since the latter approach is just another example of an adult authority (the information-giver) lording it over teens (the information-receiver) with their superior knowledge. I’m excited to see this type of novel approach to health education being advocated since it’s in line with research studies on the adolescent brain which suggest among other things, a neurologically-based propensity for peer approval, self-autonomy, and risk-taking (in this case, rattling the cage of Food Inc).
For more information about the educational implications of adolescent brain research, see my book The Power of the Adolescent Brain: Strategies for Teaching Middle and High School Students (ASCD), available from Amazon.