Aim: The diets of young people are often described as poor, but young offenders may be at particular risk and in need of targeted nutrition education. There are very little data on the nutritional status of young offenders as they are rarely captured in national adolescent samples. This paper describes the food habits of young offenders supervised in the community and the association of food habits with overweight and obesity, and compares these with school-attending adolescents to determine whether they should be specifically targeted for nutrition education. Methods: During 2003-2005, 802 (85% male) young offenders took part in a comprehensive health survey that included interviewer-assisted recall of 11 food items. Height and weight were measured and body mass index calculated. Results: The diets of young offenders were poor. Only 32% of men and 20% of women reported eating breakfast every day, and 25% of participants ate fruit every day, while 30% of men and 16% of women ate extra foods (i.e. meat pies, sausage rolls or hot dogs) daily. One-third of the participants were either overweight or obese; however, there was no significant association between food habits and overweight and obesity. Conclusion: Programs which encourage healthy food habits among young people serving community orders are required to improve their diets and long-term health outcomes. The period of supervised orders offers an opportunity for health authorities to intervene, but further research is required to identify effective interventions in this traditionally difficult-to-reach group.
- Food habits