Research Article - Journal of Child and Adolescent Health (2018) Volume 2, Issue 1
Increasing fruit and vegetable intake in low-income minority children: African American mothers as experts on effective strategies and barriers to FV.
Objective: Eating habits and taste preferences begin to develop early in life, yet little is known about self-efficacy and struggles related to promoting FV among young children directly from the maternal perspective. Poor diet quality, including low FV consumption, is associated with race/ ethnicity- and income-based health disparities in the U.S., with low-income African Americans reporting the lowest intakes. Thus, the purpose of this study was to explore parenting strategies that are perceived as effective for encouraging FV consumption among low-income African American mothers of young children in order to inform future interventions for this at-risk population.
Methods: Mothers of 3 to 5-year-old children from two Head Start programs in a southeastern state of the U.S. were recruited for focus group participation. Focus group transcripts were analyzed using a content analysis to identify main themes in relation to perceived effective practices, and key barriers and facilitators to encouraging children’s FV consumption.
Results: Accessibility strategies were uniquely perceived as effective for encouraging fruit. Negotiating/coaxing, making available, and using rules were perceived as effective and unique practices for vegetables. Child openness and maternal FV preferences facilitated maternal efforts to encourage FV consumption. Mothers identified three primary barriers to FV consumption: 1) child’s “difficult” temperament; 2) negative family influences, and 3) low maternal FV preferences/modeling.
Conclusions: Low-income African American mothers utilize a large number and variety of strategies to encourage children’s FV intake. Mothers themselves can serve as a key source of tips/strategies for each other’s social and educational support. Future research should examine specific strategies that emerged in the current study in relation to actual FV consumption in lowincome African American children