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Perception of healthy and unhealthy food among Chinese adolescents

Kara Chan (Department of Communication Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University, Kowllon Tong, Hong Kong)
Tommy Tse (Department of Sociology, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong)
Daisy Tam (Department of Humanities and Creative Writing, Hong Kong Baptist University, Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong)
Anqi Huang (Department of Communication Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University, Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong)

Young Consumers

ISSN: 1747-3616

Article publication date: 18 April 2016




The purpose of this paper is to explore snacking behavior and perspectives on healthy and unhealthy food choices among adolescents in Mainland China.


Four focus-group interviews were conducted. Altogether 24 participants were recruited in Changsha, a second-tier city in China, through a convenience sampling process. They were asked to report their snacking behaviors, identify whether certain snacks are healthy or unhealthy and elaborate on factors affecting food choices.


Snacking was prevalent among the participants. The most frequently consumed snacks included fruit, milk and instant noodles. Participants’ evaluations for the healthiness of foods were based on the actual nutritional values of those foods, the effects on growth and body weight and word-of-mouth. Choice of snack was driven mainly by taste, image, convenience and health consciousness.

Research limitations/implications

The finding was based on a non-probability sample. The paper also did not explore the contexts where snacks were consumed.

Practical implications

Parents can make healthy snacks more accessible at home and at schools. Educators can teach adolescents how to read food labels. Schools can increase the availability of healthy snacks on campus. Social marketers can promote healthy snacks by associating them with fun and high taste.


This is the first paper on snacking behaviors among adolescents conducted in a second-tier city in China using focus-group methodology.



This study was supported by a General Research Fund from the Research Grants Council (Project Number HKBU 240713).


Chan, K., Tse, T., Tam, D. and Huang, A. (2016), "Perception of healthy and unhealthy food among Chinese adolescents", Young Consumers, Vol. 17 No. 1, pp. 32-45.



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Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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