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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Diverse Food Items Are Similarly Categorized by 8- to 13-year-old Children)

item Beltran, Alicia
item Knight Sepulveda, Karina
item Watson, Kathy
item Baranowski, Thomas
item Baranowski, Janice
item Islam, Noemi
item Missaghian, Mariam

Submitted to: Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/1/2008
Publication Date: 6/1/2008
Citation: Beltran, A., Knight Sepulveda, K., Watson, K., Baranowski, T., Baranowski, J., Islam, N., Missaghian, M. 2008. Diverse food items are similarly categorized by 8- to 13-year-old children. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. 40:149-159.

Interpretive Summary: An early version of a computerized 24-hour recall program for assessing dietary intake directly by children found that the children had a difficult time finding foods in the data base by exploring a hierarchically organized set of food categories. Part of the problem may have been the hierarchy was developed by professional dietitians, and may not have effected how children think about foods. A hierarchy of food categories based on how children think about and categorize foods may enable children to more accurately and easily (speedily) find foods. Toward that end, this study investigated how 8- to 13-year-old children categorized 62 foods that were selected as the ones more commonly eaten by children from 18 professionally identified food categories. The wide age range was selected to identify an age below which children have a difficult time completing these tasks, and thereby should not be asked to report dietary intakes for research purposes. Analyses revealed that seven categories captured 92% of the variance in clustering of foods (a very high level). No differences in categories were identified by the available demographic characteristics (including age) suggesting that these categories were commonly used by diverse children from 8- to 13-year olds. The identified clusters offer promise as the first level of categories in a hierarchically organized food identification system. Future research will need to test this.

Technical Abstract: The study objective was to assess how 8- to 13-year-old children categorized and labeled food items, for possible use as part of a food search strategy in a computerized 24-hour dietary recall. A set of 62 cards with pictures and names of food items from 18 professionally defined food groups was sorted by each child into piles of similar food items. Participants included 148 8- to 13-year-old children (132 English speaking, 16 primarily Spanish speaking) attending the Children's Nutrition Research Center in the summer 2006. Participants were asked to sort food items into common groupings and provide their names. Children created on average 11.1 (+/- 4.4) piles with 5.4 (+/- 4.9) cards per pile. Robinson matrix clusters captured 92.4% of the variance in the sorting of food cards. No substantial differences in Robinson clustering were detected across subcategories for each of the demographic characteristics. The label names provided by the children were most frequently categorized as "Taxonomic-Professional" (42.5%), such as meat, fruit, and drinks; or "Script" (26.4%), such as breakfast food, desserts, and snacks. Children categorized food items into similar clusters but used diverse names to label them. These categories may be used to facilitate food search for researchers in a computerized 24-hour dietary recall for children in this age group.

Last Modified: 05/22/2017
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