Demographic and psychosocial predictors of fruit and vegetable intakes differ: implications for dietary interventions

J Am Diet Assoc. 1998 Dec;98(12):1412-7. doi: 10.1016/S0002-8223(98)00319-8.


Objective: The National Cancer Institute (Rockville, Md) has launched a nationwide initiative--5 A Day for Better Health--to encourage consumption of fruits and vegetables. Because the tastes and culinary uses of fruits and vegetables differ, however, it is not known whether a general 5-A-Day message is an effective intervention strategy. This study examined whether there are differences between the demographic and psychosocial correlates of fruit and vegetable intakes.

Design: Data are from the Washington State Cancer Risk Behavior Survey (1995-1996), a cross-sectional, random-digit-dial telephone survey representative of the adult population of Washington State.

Subjects/setting: Interviews were completed with 1,450 adults. Data were collected about demographic characteristics, health status, health-related behavior, fruit and vegetable intakes, and the following diet-related psychosocial factors: beliefs, motives, barriers, attitudes, and stages of dietary change.

Statistical analyses: Multivariate linear regression analysis was used to test whether the associations of demographic characteristics and psychosocial factors with fruit intake differed from associations with vegetable intake.

Results: In general, health status, health-related behavior, and psychosocial factors were more strongly associated with fruit intakes than vegetable intakes. For example, regular exercisers consumed 0.44 more daily servings of fruits and 0.36 more servings of vegetables than nonexercisers. Compared with those in the preaction stage of dietary change, adults in the maintenance stage consumed 0.99 more daily servings of fruits and 0.68 more servings of vegetables. Intrinsic motivations for eating a healthful diet (eg, to feel better) were strongly associated with both fruit and vegetable intakes, and these associations were stronger for fruit. Extrinsic motivations were not associated with either fruit or vegetable intakes.

Applications: Dietary interventions based on a general 5-A-Day message may be more effective in increasing fruit intakes than vegetable intakes. Targeted interventions that focus specifically on vegetables are probably necessary. Intrinsic motives for eating a healthful diet should be key components of interventions to increase fruit and vegetable intakes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet Surveys*
  • Feeding Behavior* / psychology
  • Female
  • Fruit*
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Neoplasms / psychology
  • Nutrition Assessment
  • Sex Factors
  • Telephone
  • Vegetables*
  • Washington