Sedentary lifestyles, along with diets low in fruits, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates, and high in fat and total energy are increasing among youth. These unhealthy behaviors contribute to an increase in childhood overweight, which is associated with type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. Healthful dietary behaviors, such as eating a balanced and varied diet may be addressed in garden-based programs for youth. Therefore, this project assessed the influence of a garden program, with a newly developed nutrition curriculum, on youth's eating and gardening behavior using the Theory of Planned Behavior. The model included the constructs of attitude, subjective norm, and perceived behavioral control (PBC). Youth (age 8-15 years) involved in a garden program in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota completed a pre- (n=96) and a post-survey (n=66) assessing the theory's constructs with regard to eating and gardening behaviors. Fruit and vegetable consumption were assessed using survey questions and a 24-h recall. In addition to finding gender differences regarding associations between intention and behavior and the constructs correlated with behavior, results indicated that attitude was most predictive of intention at both pre- and post-survey for both boys and girls with behavior associated to PBC in girls, but not for boys. A high level of intention for boys pre-survey marginally predicted some behavioral change post-survey, but girls with high levels of intention at pre-survey did not show positive behavioral changes at post-survey. Additionally, the garden program positively impacted youth fruit and vegetable consumption, as determined from a mean computed from the responses to the fruit and vegetable behavior survey questions and the 24-h recall food group data. Because youth in the garden program consumed more fruit and vegetables at post-survey compared to pre-survey, we conclude that garden programs may be a viable way to assist youth in making healthy lifestyle changes. © 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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