Longitudinal predictors of frequent vegetable and fruit consumption among socio-economically disadvantaged Australian adolescents

Lena D Stephens, Sarah A McNaughton, David Crawford, Kylie Ball
Appetite 2014, 78: 165-71
Adequate vegetable and fruit consumption is necessary for preventing nutrition-related diseases. Socio-economically disadvantaged adolescents tend to consume relatively few vegetables and fruits. However, despite nutritional challenges associated with socio-economic disadvantage, a minority of adolescents manage to eat vegetables and fruit in quantities that are more in line with dietary recommendations. This investigation aimed to identify predictors of more frequent intakes of fruits and vegetables among adolescents over a 2-year follow-up period. Data were drawn from 521 socio-economically disadvantaged (maternal education ≤Year 10 of secondary school) Australian adolescents aged 12-15 years. Participants were recruited from 37 secondary schools and were asked to complete online surveys in 2004/2005 (baseline) and 2006/2007 (follow-up). Surveys comprised a 38-item FFQ and questions based on Social Ecological models examining intrapersonal, social and environmental influences on diet. At baseline and follow-up, respectively, 29% and 24% of adolescents frequently consumed vegetables (≥2 times/day); 33% and 36% frequently consumed fruit (≥1 time/day). In multivariable logistic regressions, baseline consumption strongly predicted consumption at follow-up. Frequently being served vegetables at dinner predicted frequent vegetable consumption. Female sex, rarely purchasing food or drink from school vending machines, and usually being expected to eat all foods served predicted frequent fruit consumption. Findings suggest nutrition promotion initiatives aimed at improving eating behaviours among this at-risk population and should focus on younger adolescents, particularly boys; improving adolescent eating behaviours at school; and encouraging families to increase home availability of healthy foods and to implement meal time rules.

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