The current study used a theory-based approach to independently investigate beliefs about both eating and buying more dark green leafy vegetables each week over the next 3 months. Findings suggest that the RAA can be used to identify salient consequences, circumstances, and referents about performing the behaviors of interest among a sample of Mid-western African–American women responsible for buying and preparing food for their household. Data obtained from this elicitation can be conceptualized further using the social–ecological framework whose components have been cited as being required to improve overall fruit and vegetable consumption, particularly among African Americans (Robinson, 2008
). The perceived consequences for the performance of both behaviors included interpersonal, interpersonal and environmental factors, with advantages of eating more dark green leafy vegetables generally being about a specific health outcome. The advantages for buying them dealt more with the performance of health behaviors (eating more cups) and health improvements not only for the participant, but their family as well. Findings such as this, to our knowledge, have not been reported in the literature. Disadvantages for perceived consequences focused primarily on cost which has been cited in the food access literature as being a barrier relevant to purchasing and consumption of healthy foods (Odoms-Young, Zenk, Karpyn, Ayala, & Gittelsohn, 2012
; Booth et al., 2001
). Participants’ perceived salient circumstances for eating and buying more dark green leafy vegetables included intrapersonal, community, and environmental factors. These elements generally dealt more with the absence of knowledge and skills to prepare them; the location of neighborhood food stores relative to households; and the cost and quality of dark green leafy vegetables. These factors are important for overall fruit and vegetable consumption as well (Robinson, 2008
; Wenrich, Brown, Miller-Day, Kelley, & Lengerich, 2010
; Hillier et al., 2011; Ard et al., 2007
). Similar results were found in regard to circumstances for buying. Finally, “family” was mentioned in both salient referents (approve and disapprove) and salient consequences (advantages and disadvantages).
The relative importance, influence, and concern for family was expressed in the elicitation results for both eating and buying. This finding was not surprising given that 40% of participants reported living with three or more individuals; and over one-third prepared food in the last 7 days for people who did not
live in their household (i.e. up to 10 people). Thus, these factors in combination with the significance of the “extended family” in African American culture (including blood kin and fictive kin) (McAdoo & Younge, 2008
) may have impacted participants’ beliefs. Findings in this regard are consistent with studies reporting that social support, including that of spouses and other family members, influence the availability and consumption of healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, in African–American households as well (Ard et al., 2007
; James, 2004
; Shankar & Klassen, 2001
Throughout the literature, level of education is positively associated with higher income and the practice of positive health behaviors (e.g., increased fruit and vegetable consumption), respectively (Ard et al., 2007
). As such, women in the study had relatively high levels of education (e.g., 75% attended at least one year of college) – but they made statements about determinants of consumption that have been reported by African Americans with diverse socioeconomic levels and circumstances (Ard et al., 2007
; James, 2004
; Shankar & Klassen, 2001
). Evans, McNeil, Laufman, and Bowman (2009)
found that Mid-western African–American women who had higher education levels did not have better dietary habits than those with lower-incomes. Thus, our findings may support the notion that African–American women in the sample, regardless of education level, could potentially benefit from nutrition interventions informed by the elicitation results.
Strengths and limitations
A major strength of the current study was the use of theory to investigate behaviors surrounding one of the least consumed yet most nutritious subgroup of vegetables. No study has examined African–American women’s salient beliefs about eating and/or buying vegetables from the dark green group. Thus, findings presented here may provide variables upon which to examine further.
While study results may not be generalizable to other African American females, they may provide a “road map” from which future studies could work from. Second, the sample had a relatively high level of education. But as previously noted, this fact could further make the case for the development of nutrition education programs for all, regardless of socioeconomic status. Third, income was not assessed by the study survey, which may have provided further insight into the interpretation of beliefs associated with buying. Fourth, data obtained is self-reported, thus findings may be influenced by a social desirability response set.
Conclusions and implications
Use of the Reasoned Action Approach allowed for the extraction of categories of specific salient consequences, circumstances, and referents in regard to eating and buying dark green leafy vegetables from the perspective of Mid-western African–American women. Identifying and understanding these culturally specific beliefs may help fulfill the expressed need for the development of nutrition education programs that consider the varying priorities, motivators, and barriers that subgroups within the population have in regard to consumption of healthy foods (Pollard, Kirk, & Cade, 2002
). Future quantitative evaluations of these beliefs may determine the relative importance of factors essential for African–American women in this sample to consume and purchase more dark green leafy vegetables. Replication of the study in other populations may be useful in determining belief differences by race/ethnicity, gender, and/or age.