Program Rationale

“A Rationale for a Workshop for Teens on Mercer Island on Healthy Eating Habits”

Lauren Feuerman. Leahy

American University Master of Nutrition Education


The Problem


Studies have shown that adolescence is a period which healthy or unhealthy eating habits develop. From the research Van Vilet, Gufstafsson & Nelson (2016) presented in a cross-sectional study with written questionaires and physical measurements, “dieting to lose weight and skipping breakfast were more common among adolescents than younger boys and girls.” From this research it seems clear that the strongest factor to dieting in both boys and girls was a perception of being overweight and skipping breakfast was associated with a more negative body image (Van Vliet et. al., 2016). Another key determinant was a higher BMI in boys leads to skipping breakfast (Van Vliet et. al.,  2016). Findings from a NHANES sample indicate that from 2013 – 2016, 37% of adolescents tried to lose weight. Some ways in which adolescents tried to lose weight were skipping meals which made up 16% of the total adolescents polled (McDow, Nguyen, Herrick, & Akinbami, 2019). According to GAIN health or the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, “The overall findings are worrying. Across the globe, adolescents do not eat enough fruits and vegetables and consume too much soda and fast food (Beal, 2019). Unhealthy diets among adolescents, along with low physical activity, are contributing to the coexistence of undernutrition, overweight or obesity and noncommunicable diseases, which can harm adolescents now and in later life as well as the next generation”


The Population- Narrowing the Problem

My audience will be made up of 40 Mercer Island High School adolescents from age 15-19 with an emphasis on boys. Mercer Island is a small town approximately 10 minutes from Seattle, Washington. We have one high school that has 1500 students. Mercer Island is a highly educated community with many professionals and adults with higher education. Most teenagers are concerned about their ability to perform in school with 95% graduating in four years (Washington office of the Superintendent, 2020). Kids are also very concerned about self-image which I have observed in my twenty years of living in the area and raising two teenagers.

I will have motivational interviews with each child and understand their current eating habits. Some questions I will ask will be related to if they skip breakfast, how often they eat fast food or do they drink soda.


The Solution

My proposed program will be called Nutrition Education Workshops for Teenagers on Mercer Island. The program will consist of 1) a motivational interview to discover needs of teenagers and find out eating habits 2) a series of zoom calls which I will educate teenagers on a healthy diet and the pros of eating breakfast daily 3) a follow up program to track food intake and fast food/soda intake 4) guest speakers to role model healthy eating and success in business and sports 5) social media ads to encourage eating breakfast and skipping fast foods and sodas.  In addition, I will look at barriers to action. I will keep the lesson plan fun and age appropriate.  I will integrate CBT and Social Cognitive Theory to establish self-efficacy in making good decision. 4) The methodology I will use is from University of Minnesota Extension programs in Nutrition. The program I researched works with teens to build self-efficacy. My plan is to have a fun and engaging program to help them learn to love breakfast and make smart choices. In addition, according to the search institute (2017) literature, eight elements of best practices from the University of Minnesota Extension that are proven to work for youth development will be included in my program. They are:

Youth feel physically and emotionally safe

Youth experience belonging and ownership

Youth develop self-worth

Youth discover self

Youth develop quality relationships with peers and adults

Youth discuss conflicting values and form their own

Youth feel the pride and accountability that comes with mastery 

The Opportunity – What is in it for Mercer Island

I decided to use Social Media and Zoom calls in my program due to the fact that teenagers are using social media and computers. A study from the Pew Research Center found that “more than 50 percent of 13- to 17-year-olds go online several times a day. This quickly increases during the teenage years to over 70 minutes per day, with teenage girls having the highest usage at just over 140 minutes per day. It is important to recognize that non-school related use of the internet and social media is often beheld by teenagers as important for developing their self-esteem, their acceptance among peers and their mental health in general” (Coppes, 2019).

Mercer Island High School has approximately 1500 children enrolled. I have lived on Mercer Island for twenty-two years. We have a an active and engaged student body and PTA with a program called Parent Edge where we bring in speakers in all areas to the community.  I will have a 45-minute teenage nutrition education series for the children of Mercer Island High School. The people who benefit the most are teens, parents and teachers. It would be an important addition to our school to embrace how to help teens with health and better performance in school and life.


The Promise and Gain to Mercer Island

According to Carroll (2014), “The push for school nutrition initiatives traditionally has focused on health outcomes. While these certainly are important, it’s time to shift the conversation to include the academic implications of dietary choices. It’s clear that nutrition behaviors such as eating breakfast impact learning outcomes. Other behaviors, such as adequate fruit and vegetable intake, better diet quality, and lower consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, are supported by a growing body of evidence for their role in academic performance.”


Mercer Island High School students will have better overall grades and attendance due to improvements in nutrition. What can be gained is a lifetime of healthy eating habits and cost savings to our medical systems with a good preventative plan to nutrition. Mercer Island will be an example to other high schools that are trying to help kids increase awareness of healthy eating.


Reason to Invest in this Program and Why Will it Be Successful

Mercer Island prides itself on its education. As stated above, 95% of children graduate high school on Mercer Island and 55% of our teachers have a Master’s degree (Office of Superintendent, 2020). Adolescents at this school strive to be the best at everything as we can see by our level of higher degrees and problems can lead to more chronic issues such as poor grades, lack of vitamins and poor performance in activities. If Mercer Island strives to be the best, it needs to educate its teens on healthy habits.


















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