Content analysis of meal plans published in magazines aimed at middle-aged women
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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Background: Magazines are viewed as a popular, trusted source of health and nutrition information for middle-aged women and media coverage of weight loss is increasing. They have the potential to successfully deliver health messages and promote beneficial behaviour change. Aim: This study aims to analyse the nutritional composition of meal plans published in magazines marketed at middle-aged women, compare them to evidence-based standards and examine seasonal patterns. Methods: A quantitative content analysis of 30 meal plans published in women’s weekly magazines, comparing them to the scientific evidenced based nutritional recommendations for middle-aged women. Results: On average the meal plans provided a calorie reduction which was in excess of the recommendation. The meal plans did not meet the recommendations for total fat, saturated fat, carbohydrate, calcium or fibre and exceeded the recommendations for sodium and protein. On average, however, meal plans did meet the recommendations for consumption of fruit and vegetables and oily fish. The most commonly occurring breakfast foods were toast, eggs and mixed berries and the most commonly occurring foods which contribute towards calcium were cheese and yoghurt. Conclusions: The meal plans analysed do not meet either the nutritional guidelines and have the potential to be detrimental to cardiovascular and bone health. Novel foods included within the meal plans may affect adherence to the diets affecting weight loss potential longer term. A potential collaboration between the magazines and dietitians may help to communicate scientifically evidenced nutritional messages to a wider population.
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