Young adults buy fast food not only because it is convenient, but because it tastes good.

However, they do say that if fast-food outlets offered healthier options, including vegetables, salads and grilled meat, they would choose those.

This emerged from a study on nutrition by Stellenbosch University researcher Maryke van Zyl, who surveyed more than 300 working adults, aged 18-30 years, in Gauteng. Of these, 81% of the women said they would choose a healthier meal option, compared with 73% of the men.

The majority were, however, concerned about their health, with only 12% saying they were not concerned.

Van Zyl’s aim was to understand the factors that influenced the choice of fast food by young adults. Their top favorites included burgers, pizzas, fried chicken and potato chips. Grilled chicken was bottom of the list.

Soft drinks were the most popular beverage, with more than half saying they chose soft drinks, compared with 13.8% who chose pure fruit juice, and 7.6% who opted for unflavoured water.

Although there was no significant difference in beverage consumption between the sexes, women were three times more likely to buy diet drinks.

Van Zyl found that at least 11% of respondents ate fast food every day, with 27.6% eating it two to three times a week, and almost 21% eating it once a week.

The largest number of participants, about 80%, said television influenced their purchase of food, while flyers and handouts influenced less than 2%.

Presenting her study at Stellenbosch University’s annual academic day, Van Zyl said she was concerned that the most common food items were junk food, because this put young people at risk of obesity and lifestyle diseases.

She was, however, encouraged that many said they would opt for healthier food if they could.


From the August 18, 2011, Prepared Foods' Daily News.