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Exploring Gender Differences in Food Preferences among School Children

November 30, 2023

Donna M. Skolnick

Donna M. Skolnick



Exploring Gender Differences in Food Preferences among School-Aged Children and Adolescents: Implications for School Nutrition Programs

The significance of fostering healthy eating habits among school-aged children and adolescents cannot be overstated. As schools play a pivotal role in shaping these behaviors, the National School Lunch Program and Local School Wellness Policies emerge as key players in influencing the dietary choices of young individuals. We delve into a study conducted by Natalie L. Caine-Bish PhD and Barbara Scheule PhD, first published on October 12, 2009, which sheds light on the intricate relationship between gender, age, and food preferences among school-aged children and adolescents. With 80 citations to its credit, the study signifies a substantial contribution to the field.

Link to article https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1746-1561.2009.00445.x

The exploration begins with an examination of the various factors influencing food preferences in school-aged children and adolescents. Factors such as cultural background, socioeconomic status, and family influence are analyzed to provide a comprehensive understanding of the multifaceted nature of these preferences.

Moving forward, the study's findings regarding gender differences take center stage. An in-depth analysis of how boys and girls differ in their food choices, exploring both similarities and disparities, forms a crucial part of this section. The impact of age on these preferences is also explored, recognizing the evolving nature of taste preferences as children transition through adolescence.

A critical aspect of the discussion revolves around the implications of these findings for school nutrition programs. How can schools leverage this knowledge to create menus that are not only healthy but also financially viable? The challenges and opportunities presented by incorporating gender and age-specific preferences into school menus are explored, offering insights into effective strategies for implementation.

Understanding the nuances of food preferences among school-aged children and adolescents allows for targeted interventions and policies that can positively influence dietary habits on a larger scale.

In the study conducted by Natalie L. Caine-Bish PhD and Barbara Scheule PhD, gender differences in food choices among school-aged children and adolescents were explored with a nuanced perspective. The research, published on October 12, 2009, has been widely cited (80 citations), underscoring its significance in the field of nutrition and education.

The study delves into the intricate relationship between gender and food preferences, recognizing that these preferences are not uniform across the diverse spectrum of school-aged individuals. Boys and girls, it suggests, exhibit both similarities and disparities in their dietary choices, influenced by a myriad of factors.

Cultural influences emerge as a key determinant of gender-specific food preferences. The study delves into how cultural backgrounds shape the culinary preferences of children and adolescents, contributing to the variations observed between boys and girls. This understanding is crucial for schools aiming to create inclusive and culturally sensitive menus that cater to the diverse backgrounds of their student population.

Socioeconomic status is another aspect scrutinized in the study, shedding light on how economic factors impact food choices among different genders. The disparities in access to certain types of food based on socioeconomic status contribute to nuanced preferences, influencing the development of dietary habits in both boys and girls.

Family influence is a pivotal factor explored in the study, recognizing the role of caregivers and familial eating patterns in shaping the food choices of school-aged children. The study suggests that familial attitudes towards food, meal structures, and the presence of specific cuisines at home contribute significantly to the development of gender-specific food preferences.

The evolving nature of these preferences across age groups adds another layer to the discussion. As children transition through adolescence, their taste preferences may shift, influenced by factors such as physiological changes, peer interactions, and societal norms. Understanding these age-related nuances is vital for schools aiming to create menus that resonate with the evolving preferences of their students.

In practical terms, the study's findings highlight the importance of schools adopting a holistic approach to menu planning. By taking into account the diverse cultural, socioeconomic, and familial factors that contribute to gender-specific food choices, schools can create nutrition programs that are not only tailored to the unique needs of their students but also promote healthy eating habits.

Let’s look at food preferences by gender, per the study.

Cultural Influences on Boys' and Girls' Food Choices:


  • The study suggests that boys may be influenced by cultural norms that emphasize certain types of foods. For example, in cultures where meat consumption is traditionally valued, boys may exhibit a preference for protein-rich options.
  • Sports and physical activity can also play a role in boys' food choices. Certain cultures associate masculinity with athleticism, potentially leading to preferences for energy-dense foods that are perceived as fuel for physical activity.


  • Girls, on the other hand, might be influenced by cultural ideals associated with femininity. In cultures that emphasize a slender physique as an ideal, girls may show a preference for foods perceived as lighter or lower in calories.
  • Social aspects of food, such as communal eating practices in certain cultures, may influence girls' choices. Girls might lean towards foods that facilitate socialization and communal experiences.

Socioeconomic Factors Impacting Boys' and Girls' Food Choices:


  • Economic factors can influence boys' food choices, with affordability and accessibility playing a crucial role. Boys from lower socioeconomic backgrounds might lean towards more budget-friendly options, potentially impacting the nutritional quality of their diet.
  • Advertising and marketing strategies may also play a role, as boys might be influenced by the availability and promotion of certain foods within their economic context.


  • Socioeconomic status can affect the variety and quality of foods available to girls. Those from higher-income families might have access to a broader range of options, potentially impacting the diversity and nutritional content of their diets.
  • Educational programs aimed at promoting healthy eating may have differing levels of effectiveness based on socioeconomic status, influencing girls' awareness and choices regarding nutrition.

Family Influence on Boys' and Girls' Food Choices:


  • The study suggests that parental eating patterns and attitudes towards food significantly shape boys' preferences. Boys may be more likely to adopt the dietary habits of their parents, emphasizing the importance of positive role modeling.
  • Family meal structures and traditions can impact boys' food choices. If family meals prioritize certain types of foods, boys may develop preferences aligned with these family norms.


  • Girls, similarly, are influenced by family dynamics. Parents who prioritize healthy eating may contribute to girls' choices of nutritious foods, fostering positive dietary habits from an early age.
  • The study implies that familial attitudes towards body image may impact girls' food choices. Parents who emphasize body positivity and health may contribute to girls' preferences for balanced and nourishing foods.

Age-Related Changes in Boys' and Girls' Food Choices:


  • As boys transition through adolescence, physiological changes and increased energy requirements may influence their food choices. Protein-rich foods may become more appealing as boys experience growth spurts and engage in more physical activity.


  • Girls' food preferences may undergo changes during adolescence influenced by hormonal shifts. The study hints at the importance of recognizing these changes to ensure that school nutrition programs remain relevant and appealing to girls at different stages of development.

Integrating Insights into School Nutrition Programs:

In practical terms, schools can use this knowledge to tailor menus that appeal to the diverse preferences of boys and girls. Offering a variety of options that consider cultural diversity, socioeconomic factors, and age-related changes ensures inclusivity and promotes healthier eating habits.

Casa Bella Outdoor Kitchen Cabinetry, with its commitment to customization and recognizing individual preferences, aligns with the study's emphasis on tailoring solutions to meet unique tastes and styles. Just as schools are encouraged to understand the multifaceted nature of gender-related food choices, Casa Bella acknowledges the individuality of its clients by offering outdoor kitchen solutions in six designer colors.

The detailed examination of boys' and girls' food choices based on the study and additional insights emphasizes the need for a nuanced approach in developing school nutrition programs. By understanding the complex interplay of cultural, socioeconomic, and familial factors, schools can create environments that foster healthy eating habits among boys and girls.

Casa Bella Outdoor Kitchen Cabinetry, with its commitment to quality and customization, parallels the study's emphasis on recognizing and accommodating diverse preferences. Just as schools are encouraged to understand the multifaceted nature of gender-related food choices, Casa Bella Outdoor Kitchen Cabinetry acknowledges the individuality of its clients by offering outdoor kitchen solutions in six designer colors, ensuring a personalized and aesthetically pleasing outdoor culinary experience.

The research by Caine-Bish and Scheule underscores the complexity of gender differences in food preferences among school-aged children and adolescents. Integrating these findings into school nutrition programs can pave the way for more inclusive and effective approaches to promoting healthy eating habits.

The key findings of the study and their implications. It emphasizes the role schools play in shaping healthy eating behaviors and the importance of tailoring nutrition programs to the specific needs of diverse student populations. The call to action is clear: schools should actively incorporate knowledge about gender and age-related food preferences into their menu planning to promote both the health and well-being of their students.

Stay Informed: Stay updated on the latest research in children's nutrition by subscribing to reputable journals and publications.

Engage with Schools: Encourage local schools to consider gender and age-specific preferences in their nutrition programs.

Advocate for Healthy Menus: Join or support initiatives advocating for healthier and more inclusive school menus.

Offer choices such as grilled food. Casa Bella Outdoor kitchens fit any make or model of bbq grill.

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