Eating your fruits and veggies

August 31, 2012 by Greg St. Martin
Deb Franko, a professor in the department of counseling and applied educational psychology, explains why some teenagers eat less fruit and vegetables than others. Photo: Brooks Canaday.

(Medical Xpress)—Teenagers in gen­eral are rel­a­tively unhealthy eaters. But minority teens in par­tic­ular have higher rates of obe­sity and eat far fewer fruits and vegetables.

Deb Franko, a pro­fessor in the Depart­ment of Coun­seling and Applied Edu­ca­tional Psy­chology in the Bouvé Col­lege of Health Sci­ences at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity, and her col­leagues recently pub­lished a study in the Journal of Nutri­tion Edu­ca­tion and Behavior exam­ining the social and cog­ni­tive fac­tors that may explain teens' reluc­tance to eat their share of bananas, broc­coli and baby car­rots. The fac­tors that influ­enced con­sump­tion, she explained, were dif­ferent for minority and non­mi­nority youth.

Franko, whose research focuses on obe­sity, eating dis­or­ders and , used base­line data from an eating-​​disorder pre­ven­tion study funded by the National Insti­tutes of Health to iden­tify indi­vidual, envi­ron­mental and inter­per­sonal rea­sons for the among stu­dents at four Boston-​​area high schools.

"If we could under­stand a little bit more about why ado­les­cents do or don't eat fruits and veg­eta­bles," Franko spec­u­lated, "then that might have impli­ca­tions for inter­ven­tions designed to reduce risk for obesity."

In the study, both minority and non­mi­nority stu­dents cited a variety of bar­riers to eating fruits and veg­eta­bles, but other pre­dic­tors were unique to the minority par­tic­i­pants. Minori­ties with a strong belief in accom­plishing the goals they set their minds to, for example, were more likely than their peers to eat fruits and veg­eta­bles. The same cor­re­la­tion was not found among non­mi­nority stu­dents, who all had rel­a­tively high self-​​efficacy.

Having familial sup­port and under­standing the ben­e­fits of eating five fruits and veg­eta­bles each day, the study found, were key fac­tors to pre­dicting whether minority stu­dents would be more or less likely to eat their greens.

Franko said increasing aware­ness of the life­long ben­e­fits of eating health­fully or tar­geting self-​​efficacy through school pro­grams would be easier than boosting eco­nomic status, which other studies have iden­ti­fied as a main reason why minori­ties eat fewer .

"We hope to use our find­ings to develop inter­ven­tions that will encourage eating more fruits and veg­eta­bles among both minority and non­mi­nority ado­les­cents," she said.

Explore further: Tracking America's physical activity, via smartphone

Related Stories

The language of neural cells

August 23, 2012

Imagine if we could under­stand the lan­guage two neu­rons use to com­mu­ni­cate. We might learn some­thing about how thoughts and con­scious­ness are formed. At the very least, our improved under­standing of neuron ...

Recommended for you

Mobile app records our erratic eating habits

September 24, 2015

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner? For too many of us, the three meals of the day go more like: office meeting pastry, mid-afternoon energy drink, and midnight pizza. In Cell Metabolism on September 24, Salk Institute scientists ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.