The gender gap in diet appears to be particularly marked in families that have high aspirations for their children's education. The study by the University of Oxford and Imperial College London says adolescent girls are less likely than boys to consume those costlier foods that are rich in proteins, vitamins and micronutrients necessary for their healthy development.
Researchers from the Young Lives study interviewed children and their parents, or guardians, living in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telegana. They collected data from the same samples of about 1,000 older children and 2,000 younger children in 2006, 2009 and 2013 when the children were five, eight, 12 and 15 years old.
The children (or their parents or guardians if they were under the age of eight) were asked about what they had eaten in the last 24 hours. These foods were grouped into seven different food groups: eggs, milk and dairy products, legumes, pulses and nuts, root vegetables, fruit, meat and fish, oil, and cereals. They found that at the ages of five, eight and 12, the diets of boys and girls were fairly similar. However, by the age of 15, a gender gap appears – with the boys likely to eat half a food group more than the girls of the same age. The results show a gap even after controlling for other factors such as the onset of puberty, time spent working or at school, or dietary behaviours such as number of meals.