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Research Project: Childhood Obesity Prevention

Location: Children's Nutrition Research Center

Title: Fruit and vegetable attitudes, norms, and intake in low-income youth

Author
item Di Noia, Jennifer - William Patterson University
item Cullen, Karen - Children'S Nutrition Research Center (CNRC)

Submitted to: Health Education and Behavior
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/9/2015
Publication Date: 12/1/2015
Citation: Di Noia, J., Cullen, K.W. 2015. Fruit and vegetable attitudes, norms, and intake in low-income youth. Health Education and Behavior. 42(6):775-782.

Interpretive Summary: Attitudes and beliefs about whether friends eat fruit and vegetables (FV) do influence whether youth eat them, but research with low-income youth and studies using objective measures of intake are lacking. In this study, self-rated FV intake, FV attitudes and beliefs about eating FV were collected from 116 youth attending a residential summer camp serving low-income families. FV intake also was estimated by direct observation. Youth overestimated their own and their friends' intake of fruit and underestimated intake of vegetables. However, their attitudes and beliefs about friends' FV intake were positively associated with their perception of their personal FV intake, not what they were observed eating. These findings show that youth may benefit from interventions that promote favorable FV attitudes about FV, and true beliefs about what FV their friends are eating.

Technical Abstract: Fruit and vegetable (FV) attitudes and norms have been shown to influence intake in youth; yet research with low-income youth and studies supplementing self-report with objective measures of intake are lacking. Cross-sectional survey data on self-rated FV intake, FV attitudes, and FV norms were collected in a sample of 116 youth attending a residential summer camp serving low-income families. FV intake also was estimated by direct observation. Differences between self-rated and observed FV intake, perceived and observed peer intake, and perceived and peer-reported attitudes toward eating FVs were assessed with paired samples t tests. The role of FV attitudes, descriptive norms (perceived peer FV intake), injunctive norms (perceived peer attitudes toward eating FVs), and actual norms (observed peer FV intake and peer-reported FV attitudes) in predicting FV intake also was examined with multiple regression analysis. Youth misperceived their own and their peers' FV intake (i.e., overestimated intake of fruit and underestimated intake of vegetables) and believed that peers held less favorable attitudes toward eating FVs than was the case. The models predicting self-rated intake were significant, accounting for 34% of the variance in fruit intake and 28% of the variance in vegetable intake. Attitudes and descriptive norms were positively associated with FV intake, and observed peer fruit intake was negatively associated with fruit intake. Findings suggest that in low-income youth, FV attitudes, descriptive norms, and normative peer behavior predict perceived but not actual intake. Youth may benefit from intervention to promote favorable FV attitudes and norms. A focus on descriptive norms holds promise for improving self-rated intake in this population.