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"There is usually just one Friday a week.": Parents' and children’s categorizations of "unhealthy" food

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Parents’ knowledge of what constitutes a “healthy” diet does not always translate
into action. This is often commented on as both worrying and paradoxical.
This study explores how families categorize and make rules for “unhealthy”
eating, particularly candy, and how these rules are sometimes bent. Drawing
on the literature on family and food consumption, this study builds on interviews
with 35 children and 13 families in Danish middle- and upper-middle-class
areas and explores food categorization through the use of Greimas’ semiotic
square. Findings show that while clear rules for consumption of unhealthy foods
exist, these are sometimes bent, because children challenge the rules but also
because parents themselves take the initiative to make exceptions and change
the frames of the rules. Parents categorize their children’s food consumption as
“not unhealthy” despite deviations from family food policies, and in the eyes of
these parents, “healthy” food is not just about nutrition, but also about social
and emotional health.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFood, Culture & Society: An International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research
Pages (from-to)547-567
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2015

    Research areas

  • family, unhealthy food, healthy eating, Friday candy, meaning-making, semiotic square, children as informants, Denmark

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