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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Linking Foods, Behavior and Metabolism to Promote a Healthy Body Weight

Location: Obesity and Metabolism Research Unit

Title: Vegetable variety is a key to improved diet quality in low-income women in California

Authors
item Keim, Nancy
item Forester, Shavawn -
item Lyly, Marika -
item Aaron, Grant -
item Townsend, Marilyn -

Submitted to: Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: July 8, 2013
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Studies have shown that people who choose a greater variety of vegetables tend to be less obese than those whose diets have less variety of vegetables. Yet, there is very little information on variety of vegetable consumption specific to low-income populations. We assessed the diets of a sample of low-income women and found that the variety of vegetable consumption was not related to measures of obesity in this group. However, when a greater variety of vegetables was consumed, other aspects of diet quality improved, such as more vegetables were consumed on a daily basis, more fruit was consumed, more whole grains were chosen, and less empty calories were consumed. Those consuming a greater variety of vegetables also thought it was important that the foods they ate were healthy. Nutrition education programs for this population should emphasize the importance of eating a variety of vegetables as one way to improve the overall quality of the diet.

Technical Abstract: The Dietary Guidelines for Americans include recommendations for quantity and quality of vegetable intake. The objective of this study was to determine if there is an association between variety of vegetable intake and measures of diet quality and diet cost in a sample of low-income women in California. A cross-sectional study was conducted that assessment of dietary intake by a food frequency questionnaire and three 24-h recalls; food behaviors and attitudes; and diet cost estimates. Female participants (n=112), ages 20 to 55 y, BMI 17.7 to 68.5 kg/m2, were enrolled; they were the primary food purchasers/preparers for their households. They were recruited from four California counties representing rural, urban, and suburban areas. Diet energy density and Healthy Eating Index-2005 were used to assess diet quality. Vegetable variety was classified based on number of vegetables consumed per week: low variety (LV) less than or equal to 5 different vegetables/wk, moderate variety (MV) 6-9 vegetables/wk, and high variety (HV)greater than or equal to 10 vegetables/wk. One-way ANOVA was used to determine group differences in diet quality parameters. Cross-tabulations and X2 tests evaluated group differences in descriptive variables. Compared to the LV group, participants in the HV group ate a greater quantity of vegetables per day (p<0.0001); their diets had a higher HEI score (p<0.001) and lower energy density (p<0.001); and costs associated with their daily diet and vegetable use were higher (p<0.0001). Greater vegetable variety was related to better overall diet quality, a larger quantity of vegetables consumed, and increased diet cost. Primary prevention education interventions such as those sponsored by the US Department of Agriculture for low-income families encourage and support increases in vegetable intake. Promoting vegetable variety (instead of total intake) as a behavioral strategy may be a surrogate for increased vegetable consumption and should be explored. Those interventions should include ways to moderate food costs.

Last Modified: 10/24/2014
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