This article examines the meal choices considered by Nordic adolescents in two social situations: for themselves and for the family. In addition, the frequency of family meals is compared between the countries studied. The survey data (n = 1539) were collected during 2006–2007 from 9th grade students (aged 14–17 years) in Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway. Analysis was based on both quantitative variables and open-ended data. Family meals were found to be less common among Finnish respondents than in the remaining data. In all countries but Denmark, the number of parents in the family had an effect on the frequency of family meals. Meals echoing or fully meeting the structural definition of a ‘proper meal’ were most common when describing meals for the family. The difference between the two social situations was most apparent for those who mentioned ‘Fast food dishes’ for themselves. Gender differences in open-ended questions were smallest in Denmark and most apparent in Norway. Future studies should focus not only on how many of adolescents eat in what is termed an unhealthy way but also on how they themselves perceive and conceptualize eating, and what kinds of justifications they give to their everyday choices in different social contexts.
International Journal of Consumer Studies, 2013, Vol 37, Issue 6