New Research Finds 7 in 10 Teens are Eating Junk or Nothing Pre-Exams

Diet Change Needed After 7 in 10 Teens Found to Eat Junk or Nothing Pre-Exams

A study by Dr Emma Derbyshire on behalf of Love Fresh Berries, which is funded by British Berry Growers, has revealed that a staggering seven in ten teens have gone into an exam having only had junk food for breakfast.

A new study of parents with kids currently undertaking their GCSEs or A-Levels, suggests as many as 72 per cent of teens have gone into their current examinations without a proper breakfast.

In fact, 21 per cent are convinced their teenager lacks the concentration needed to do their best in tests due to a poor and unhealthy diet. And 74 per cent of parents agreed that their child would probably achieve better grades in their GCSEs or A Levels if they had a healthier lifestyle.

Two teenagers taking an exam

Overall, a staggering nine in ten parents (92 per cent) of teens are generally concerned about their diet. And with exams well underway, 92 per cent of parents have desperately tried to convince their teens to eat a healthier and more varied diet.

According to the data, which was commissioned by Love Fresh Berries – the campaign showcasing the health benefits, versatility and all-year-round availability of berries – found that 34 per cent of parents believe their teen has a worse diet than they did at the same age, with 31 per cent feeling helpless when it comes to what their teen eats and drinks.

Fresh strawberries in a glass container

It comes as new scientific research finds that berries may aid executive function, accuracy, and response times, all important during exam season.

A review paper published in Nutrients Journal concluded that red-berry consumption led to improvements in executive function (the brain’s management system)¹.

Whilst University of Reading research found that berry consumption (400ml of a mixed berry smoothie) helped to improve accuracy on cognitive (brain) tasks and response times².

Despite this, 56 per cent of parents said their teenager skips breakfast, while 48 per cent insist their child often goes to school without eating a proper breakfast.

As many as 27 per cent say their child eats junk food instead of proper meals, while 24 per cent say their child regularly eats crisps or sweets for breakfast. Yet, 78 per cent of well-intentioned mums and dads lay out healthy snacks like berries or vegetable sticks for when their teens get home from school or college, although 56 per cent of the parents admit their teen will only eat them if there is nothing else in the house.

Dr Emma Derbyshire, Public Health Nutritionist and advisor to Love Fresh Berries, who commissioned the poll, said, “It is terrifying how many teens are either skipping or not eating a proper breakfast. During exam season, the value of eating well cannot be underestimated. Science shows that eating the right foods and being adequately hydrated can ‘fuel’ your brain, with fresh berries proven to be especially beneficial.”

Out of the teens who do regularly eat fruit with their breakfast, strawberries are the overwhelming choice, with half opting for the iconic British berry, followed by bananas (33 per cent) and blueberries (31 per cent).

Three berry based foods to help teens during exam time

Dr Derbyshire continued, “Within berries are polyphenols which are thought to be beneficial in maintaining blood sugars – junk food causes a spike which sets teens up for concentration dips whereas fresh berries release sugar gradually, helping to ensure they can concentrate for longer. Around 3 pm tends to be the peak time in the day when our brains naturally slump in sharpness, so a punnet of berries in the afternoon could help to minimise this”.

It also emerged that almost a quarter (21 per cent) of parents surveyed had found a hidden sugar stash in their kid’s bedroom, while 83 per cent routinely discover crisps, sweets and take-away wrappers stuffed under their teen’s bed.

In fact, 18 per cent of teens never eat their five a day, while 40 per cent hardly ever do, according to their parents.

Yet, mums and dads have the best intentions, with 76 per cent preparing healthy family meals only for their children to claim they’re “not hungry.” And the reason for lack of hunger at mealtimes is due to a high-sugar, salt and fat diet, according to 90 per cent of the parents polled.

Forty-one per cent have tried filling the kitchen cupboard and fridge with healthy snacks, while the same number have resorted to hiding crisps and chocolate out of sight. A third, 32 per cent, have tried to involve their teens in cooking to get them thinking about healthy ways to eat.

Strawberries (58 per cent) emerged as teens’ favourite fruit, followed by apples (32 per cent), bananas (29 per cent), blueberries (23 per cent), pineapple (21 per cent) and raspberries (21 per cent).

Nick Marston, Chairman of British Berry Growers, commented, “The first big harvests of British strawberry season have begun, and the lateness of this year’s crop means the fruit is bigger and juicier than ever. With the new research revealing strawberries as teens’ favourite fruit and science proving their concentration boosting affects too, there is every reason to eat them over junk food to ensure brains are well fuelled for exam success.”

Berries: Could these Powerful Little Fruits Prevent and Manage Illness in Kids?

A helping hand
Healthy eating can be as delicious for teenagers as junk food is. To help, Love Fresh Berries has put together some easy-to-make ‘healthy’ recipes to ensure that teens are primed and ready when it comes to the exams. You can see the recipes here:

Research of 2,000 parents in the UK was commissioned by Love Fresh Berries and was conducted by Perspectus Global in May 2023.

Academic references
1. Neurocognitive Effects of Cocoa and Red-Berries Consumption in Healthy Adults, National Library of Medicine.

2. Flavonoid-Rich Mixed Berries Maintain and Improve Cognitive Function Over a Six Hour Period in Young Healthy Adults, National Library of Medicine.

Read more health guides, news and features here.

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