Project Description

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Behavioural and self-report measures of food choice in women who have taken part in a nutrition education program

Written by: Candice Spence 13 November 2020 Researcher: Sofia Monteiro (PhD researcher), Dr James Smith,  Dr Kate Larmuth, Georgina Pujol-Busquets Guillén (PhD researcher)

Institutions: University of Cape Town (UCT), and Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods (MPI)

Researchers: Sofia Monteiro (PhD researcher), Dr James Smith,  Dr Kate Larmuth, Georgina Pujol-Busquets Guillén (PhD researcher)

Background and purpose

 Eat Better South Africa (EBSA), the community outreach branch of The Noakes Foundation aims to empower people from under-resourced communities to improve their health by making the best dietary choices available to them. EBSA has run several community nutrition education programs to teach women how to choose healthier foods. Most nutrition studies use diet assessment tools that require self-report e.g. Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ), food recall or food diaries. These measures may suffer from bias and noise due to participants’ inattention to what they eat, inability to recall fully and the lack of financial incentive for accuracy. We aim to validate this FFQ measure with an incentivised behavioural decision task. We will test whether EBSA impacts participants’ food choice when a real decision with real products can be made.  

Study overview

This study will use an FFQ to collect data on diet in the last month. It will also directly measure food choice behaviour in a limited, ecologically valid, retail environment. Participants will use a voucher to make purchases from a selection of groceries at a local supermarket. Participants will be recruited from the communities where EBSA operates and in future sites. Participants will be eligible for the study if they are adult women that have taken part in the EBSA program or are eligible to participate in future EBSA programs but have not yet received an intervention. In the shopping activity, participants will make real purchasing decisions with a budget provided by the researchers. We will use the results to inform the design of future studies with pre/post testing and a control group. To analyze the data, items purchased will be categorized (Green, Orange and Red) according to the EBSA program’s lists of foods. A behavioural measure of food preferences will be valuable to corroborate self-report survey instruments, which may suffer from bias since there is no pecuniary incentive to reveal one’s true preferences. A demographic questionnaire will explore food insecurity of households and other socioeconomic factors that influence our participants’ food choices.

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