An Examination of Household Environmental Influences on Healthy Eating Behaviors among African American Primary Caregivers and Children



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The burden of obesity and related health conditions is particularly high among African Americans and low-income families. A large body of evidence demonstrates the benefit of following a diet recommended by federal dietary guidelines in reducing obesity risk and promoting overall health. The environment plays an important role in the development of childhood obesity by influencing mechanisms related to dietary behavior patterns. This study used secondary data from a Texas state and national survey of Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) participants prior to the implementation of food package changes in 2009. The purpose of the study was to describe diet quality, examine relationships between diet quality and sociodemographic factors, and investigate household environmental influences on fruit and vegetable consumption among African American children. A healthy food indicator with four components indicative of a healthy diet, namely fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat milk, was used to measure diet quality. African American women and children in this study?s sample did not meet the standards for a healthy diet. Personal and family characteristics, including age, caregiver education, urbanization, and region of residence, were associated with diet quality in African American women and children. The majority of African American children in this sample did not meet current recommendations for daily fruit and vegetable consumption. Six household environmental factors were associated with fruit and vegetable consumption by African American children, including physical factors (primary caregiver purchase and preparation of fruits and vegetables) and sociocultural factors (primary caregiver fruit and vegetable consumption, perception of child liking fruits and vegetables, fruit and vegetable selection self-efficacy, and self-efficacy for healthful child feeding). The strongest predictor of fruit and vegetable consumption by African American children was the fruit and vegetable consumption by primary caregivers. Health education strategies aimed at improving diets of African Americans need to address a variety of sociodemographic and household factors influencing dietary behavior patterns. Strategies to promote the reduction of childhood obesity through increases in fruit and vegetable consumption must account for the consumption of fruits and vegetables among primary caregivers.