Fruit and Vegetable Attitudes, Norms, and Intake in Low-Income Youth

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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.

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