"Even though young adults are incredibly busy, they still want to know what they can do to improve their health," says Susan Nitzke, a professor at UW-Madison's College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. Nitzke is the lead investigator of a multistate collaborative project that aimed to improve fruit and vegetable consumption among economically disadvantaged young adults.
Newer guidelines for good health recommend eating nine or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day, but when the study began, the guidelines called for at least five servings, Nitzke says. However, even if you count French fries and pizza sauce, many people fall short of the more modest goal, let alone the new standards. And with obesity quickly becoming one of the biggest health problems in America and elsewhere in the world, the question of how to change behavior becomes critical, she says.
"People who don't eat many fruits and vegetables often cite reasons like inconvenience and a lack of knowledge about how to use fresh ingredients. However, it becomes particularly difficult for economically disadvantaged individuals because of the perception that fresh fruits and vegetables are expensive," Nitzke says.
Over the course of two years, Nitzke and her team conducted three rounds of interviews with more than 1,200 low-income young adults between the ages of 18 and 24. In between interviews, some study participants received phone calls and materials that were tailored to their readiness to make dietary changes. Others received a standard pamphlet and no personal contact, other than telephone interviews. The resul
Contact: Susan Nitzke
University of Wisconsin-Madison