Factors influencing food choices, dietary intake, and nutrition-related attitudes among African Americans: application of a culturally sensitive model

Ethn Health. 2004 Nov;9(4):349-67. doi: 10.1080/1355785042000285375.


Objectives: The goals of the project were: (1) to explore how culture and community impact on the nutrition attitudes, food choices, and dietary intake of a selected group of African Americans in north central Florida; and (2) to identify segments of the population and community that should be targeted for education programs, desirable components of nutrition education programs, topics of interest, and health promotion channels to reach the target group.

Design: Six focus groups were conducted with African American males and females. The data were analyzed using the PEN-3 model, a theoretical model that centralizes culture as the primary reason for health behavior and the primary consideration for health promotion and diseases prevention programs.

Results: There was a general perception that 'eating healthfully' meant giving up part of their cultural heritage and trying to conform to the dominant culture. Friends and relatives usually are not supportive of dietary changes. Barriers to eating a healthful diet also included no sense of urgency, the social and cultural symbolism of certain foods, the poor taste of 'healthy' foods, the expense of 'healthy' foods, and lack of information. Segments of the population that potentially could be motivated to make dietary changes included women, men with health problems, young adults, the elderly, and those diagnosed with a severe, life-threatening disease.

Conclusion: The findings suggest that the PEN-3 model is an appropriate framework for assessing how community and culture impact dietary habits of African Americans. African Americans will need information on basic nutrition topics such as serving sizes and reading food labels. The findings also suggest that programs and materials should be specifically developed for churches, neighborhood grocery stores, and local restaurants.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans / psychology*
  • Cultural Characteristics
  • Feeding Behavior / ethnology*
  • Female
  • Florida
  • Focus Groups
  • Food Preferences / ethnology*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Social Environment