Purpose: The food consumption behavior of American adolescents often fails to meet dietary recommendations, indicating the need for investigation of the factors that influence this behavior. This study, guided by Bandura's Social Cognitive Theory, examined relationships between such behavior and other personal, environmental, and behavioral variables.
Methods: A paper-and-pencil instrument was administered to a sample of 242 high school students. "Pyramid," fat, and sugar food scores were calculated to measure subjects' dietary diversity along with their consumption of fats and sugar/sweets. Statistical analyses were conducted to identify relationships between subjects' food scores and other study variables.
Results: Male and female subjects' pyramid scores were positively related (p < or = 0.05) to the number of meals they consumed daily. Some gender differences emerged in the data, as conformity to parents, snack consumption, and consumption of meals and snacks from home predicted males' Pyramid scores, while amount of physical exercise predicted pyramid scores of females. Both male and female subjects' fat and sugar scores were positively related (p < or = 0.05) to their consumption of meals and snacks from the school cafeteria and overall snack consumption and negatively related to their self-efficacy for making healthful food choices. Females' fat scores were further predicted by their consumption of fast food.
Conclusions: Different aspects of adolescents' food consumption behavior may be influenced by different factors, which may vary between males and females. Therefore, nutrition and health professionals should tailor educational and treatment strategies according to both the gender of their patients and the specific desired dietary outcomes.