The Dietary Choices of Women Who Are Low-Income, Pregnant, and African American

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Multiple factors influence the dietary choices of pregnant women that may increase the risk of excessive gestational weight gain. Several of these factors converge for African American women who are low income and reside in an urban setting. The objective of this study was to gain an understanding of how factors previously identified affect dietary decision making and determine the barriers that impede adoption of a healthy diet for this population.


Twenty-five in-depth semistructured interviews were conducted with African American women who were low income, pregnant, and residing in an urban setting. The participants were recruited from a university obstetric clinic in a medium-sized urban northeastern city. Interviews were digitally recorded and transcribed. Analysis was a recursive process such that data analysis was done continually during data collection. Individual interviews were conducted until informational redundancy was reached. A directed content analysis approach was used, building from prior research and themes that emerged from focus groups with a similar population. Data were coded and grouped into meaningful clusters.


The participants indicated that food cravings, taste, and appetite influenced their food choices. Limited knowledge about healthy foods, cravings for unhealthy foods, time, and finances were barriers to making healthy dietary choices. Women indicated that if healthy food tasted better, they got more rest, and their schedules were regular, it would help them make the best possible food choices.


Women who are low income, African American, and pregnant could benefit from interventions targeting food cravings, taste, and appetite, and information about what constitutes a healthy diet. Cravings for calorie-dense, nutrient-poor foods were a driver of dietary choice and potentially increased the risk of excessive gestational weight gain. The complexities of cravings, taste, and appetite that converge with limited funds, tight schedules, and a knowledge deficit of important dietary information are critical to consider when providing care to pregnant women from this population.

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