Concepts of healthful food among low-income African American women

J Nutr Educ Behav. 2012 Mar-Apr;44(2):154-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jneb.2011.04.001. Epub 2011 Oct 29.


Objective: Describe beliefs about what makes foods healthful among low-income African American women.

Methods: In one-on-one interviews, 28 low-income African American mothers viewed 30 pairs of familiar foods and explained which food in the pair was more healthful and why. Responses were grouped into codes describing concepts of food healthfulness.

Results: Nutrient content, physical effects of food, and food categories were used to judge the healthfulness of foods. Fruits, vegetables, and dairy foods were considered the most healthful and starchy foods the least healthful because they were believed to cause weight gain. Beliefs about which foods contain which nutrients and which foods have particular physical effects varied widely across participants.

Conclusions and implications: Participants demonstrated awareness of which foods are healthful but lacked understanding of why those foods are more healthful than others. Knowledge about the health effects of foods may be necessary to motivate individuals to choose healthful foods.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans / psychology*
  • Chicago
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Food / classification
  • Food Analysis
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutritional Sciences*
  • Nutritive Value
  • Poverty
  • Young Adult