Fruit and vegetable consumption, nutritional knowledge and beliefs in mothers and children

E L Gibson, J Wardle, C J Watts
Appetite 1998, 31 (2): 205-28
Increasing fruit and vegetable consumption is an important health behaviour. Parental and other psychosocial influences on children's fruit and vegetable consumption are poorly understood. The contribution of a variety of psychosocial and environmental factors to consumption of fruit and vegetables by children aged 9-11 years was explored. Ninety-two mothers and children (48 girls and 44 boys) were recruited via urban primary health-care practices. Socio-economic and educational level, nutritional knowledge and health- and diet-related beliefs and attitudes were assessed in mothers and children by questionnaires and semistructured interviews. Mothers> diets were measured by a food frequency questionnaire, while children's diets were assessed by 3-day diaries (N=80). The pattern of influence of the various measures on fruit and vegetable consumption was compared with that on children's confectionery intake. The children's intakes of macronutrients were typical for the U.K. (37% fat, 50% carbohydrate and 13% protein by energy; 12 g/day fibre), while median fruit, fruit juice and vegetable intake amounted to about 2.5 servings/day. Univariate correlations and subsequent multiple regression analyses revealed quite different influences on the three food types. Independent predictors of children's fruit intake included mothers> nutritional knowledge (beta=0.37), mothers> frequency of fruit consumption (beta=0.30) and mothers> attitudinal conviction that increasing fruit and vegetable consumption by their children could reduce their risk of developing cancer (beta=0.27; multiple r2=0.37,p<0.0001). Children's vegetable consumption was independently explained by the child's liking for commonly eaten vegetables (beta=0.36) and the mother's belief in the importance of disease prevention when choosing her child's food (beta=-0.27 r2=0.20,p<0.001). Children's confectionery consumption was predicted by the mother's liking for confectionery (beta=0.32) and the children's concern for health in choosing what to eat (beta=-0.26 r2=0.16, p<0.005). Children's consumption of fruit and vegetables are related to different psychosocial and environmental factors. Promotion of this behaviour may require attention to nutritional education and child feeding strategies of parents.


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