Online programs improve fruit and vegetable consumption

Feb 04, 2010
Online programs that provide information and tips about fruits and vegetables may be the key to getting more Americans to eat healthier, say researchers at Henry Ford Hospital. Credit: Henry Ford Health System

Online programs that provide information and tips about fruits and vegetables may be the key to getting more Americans to eat healthier, say researchers at Henry Ford Hospital.

Researchers found that when given access to an online program about fruits and vegetables, participants increased their daily and by more than two servings. Many of the participants continued using the program after the study concluded, and even reported their family members became involved in the program.

"People already know the health benefits of fruits and vegetables, but they often don't know how to incorporate them into their diet," says study senior author Christine Cole Johnson, Ph.D., M.P.H., chair of Henry Ford's Department of Biostatistics and Research Epidemiology. "That's why our study worked. Using online programs, we were able to offer study participants practical and easy tips to increase their daily fruit and vegetable intake."

Results are published in this month's issue of the .

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, fewer than 25 percent of adults in the United States eat five servings of fruit and vegetables per day. Those who eat more fruits and vegetables are likely to have reduced risk of , including stroke and certain cancers.

The 12-month-long Henry Ford study recruited members of Health Alliance Plan and four other HMOs in Seattle, Denver, Minneapolis and Atlanta, ages 21 to 65. Study participants were placed in one of these three groups:

  • A control online program that provided general information for the participants about improving their fruit and vegetable intake.
  • A program that was similar but personalized to the individual's needs
  • A program that incorporated the other two components and was also supplemented with motivational interviewing counseling via e-mail.
The program was divided into four sessions. Each session included four to five pages of core content, illustrations and optional links to more detailed information and special features designed to supplement session content. For example, special features illustrated serving sizes and nutritional similarities of fresh versus frozen versus canned foods. Another optional feature presented 300 fruit and vegetable-based recipes. Short video and audio files were offered to reinforce text on behavioral strategies. Once available, all program components were accessible throughout the 12-month study period.

An optional feature offered menus individually tailored by nutrition experts and were generated on the basis of participants' fruit and vegetable preferences and dietary restrictions.

At the end of the study, researchers found that there was improvement across all study groups, but the most significant changes were with the group that had motivational interviewing and counseling.

"We found that giving participants gentle reminders that refocused them on their goals greatly improved progress," says study co-author, Gwen Alexander, PhD, assistant research scientist. "They were being held accountable for their progress, which became a key motivator."

Up next: Drs. Johnson and Alexander are now working on creating a similar study focused on people ages 21 to 30, to find new strategies to help them incorporate more fruits and into their diet, while catering to their lifestyle.

Explore further: Increased morbidity, mortality in food system industries

Related Stories

Americans still not eating enough fruits and vegetables

Mar 15, 2007

"Eat your vegetables" has been heard at the dinner tables of America for a long time. Has the message gotten through? Since 1990 the Dietary Guidelines for Americans has recommended consuming at least two servings of fruits ...

Recommended for you

Increased morbidity, mortality in food system industries

20 minutes ago

(HealthDay)—Occupational morbidity and mortality are elevated across food system industries compared with nonfood system industries, according to a study published online May 12 in the Journal of Occupational an ...

Three issues to consider before selecting EHR

1 hour ago

(HealthDay)—Work flow, features and functionality, and technical infrastructure should all be considered in advance of selecting an electronic heath record (EHR) system, according to an article published ...

Research letter: Indoor tanning rates drop among US adults

2 hours ago

Indoor tanning rates dropped among adults from 5.5 percent in 2010 to 4.2 percent in 2013, although an estimated 7.8 million women and 1.9 million men still engage in the practice, which has been linked to increased cancer ...

Stunting remains a challenge in South Africa

3 hours ago

Stunting remains stubbornly persistent in South Africa, despite economic growth, political and social transitions, and national nutritional programmes, says a Wits-led research team.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.