University of Vermont

Office of Health Promotion Research

OHPR Abstract 52

Abstract 1990-1999

Harvey-Berino J, Hood V, Rourke J, Terrance T, Dorwaldt A, Secker-Walker R. Food preferences predict eating behavior of very young Mohawk children. J Am Diet Assoc. 1997 Jul;97(7):750-3.

OBJECTIVE: To collect baseline data on energy and nutrient intake and nutrition knowledge, attitudes, and behavior of very young Mohawk children to assist the community in planning an appropriate, targeted nutrition and exercise intervention. DESIGN: Energy and nutrient intake data were collected from 24-hour recalls conducted in the children's homes. Nutrition knowledge, attitudes, and behavior were assessed using a 38-item questionnaire that asked children to report on what foods they like the best, eat most of the time, and think are healthful. The questionnaire was completed in an elementary school on the reservation. Before data collection, we hypothesized that the average diet of the Mohawk children would not meet national dietary recommendations. SUBJECTS: One hundred forty-three children, prekindergarten through third grade (aged 4 to 9 years), completed the 24-hour recalls and the questionnaire. An additional 136 children, also prekindergarten through third grade, completed the questionnaire (n = 279). STATISTICS: Analysis of variance with a Scheffe's multiple-comparison test was used to test for differences among grades and genders for energy and nutrient intake and questionnaire scores. Multiple regression analysis was used to assess the relationship between eating behavior and selected variables. RESULTS: A mean daily energy intake of 1,980 kcal consisted of 34% fat, 13% protein, and 52% carbohydrate with 13 g fiber and 235 mg cholesterol. Food preferences were the strongest predictor of behavior, they explained 71% of the variation in the behavior score. APPLICATIONS: The major finding of this study, that food preferences are the strongest predictor of reported eating behavior in very young Mohawk children, has implications for behavior change interventions. Focusing on changing what children like to eat, through repeated exposure to new foods in a positive social context, is more likely to change what foods they choose than is simple nutrition education.

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