The Squire's Quest! intervention was successful, resulting in a 1.0 serving increase in total fruit, juice, and vegetable intake . The current analyses reveal that achieving fruit-juice and vegetable recipe preparation goals was related to post fruit and juice or vegetable consumption, but the magnitude and direction of the relationship depended on number of goals achieved and baseline consumption. Students with high baseline fruit-juice consumption (M+SD) who attained 2 or 3 fruit-juice recipe preparation goals reported highest post fruit-juice consumption compared with students with baseline fruit-juice consumption at the mean or lower. Students at mean baseline consumption had a slight benefit for achieving one recipe preparation goal, but none from achieving two or three goals. Those with zero baseline fruit-juice consumption had only modest benefit from one goal and no benefit beyond achieving one goal. Thus, recipe goal setting was a useful procedure primarily for those with high baseline consumption. These results are contrary to the intuitively expected linear increase in consumption with more goals achieved, but are consistent with the complex interactions obtained from the analysis of Squire's Quest! consumption goal setting . Perhaps students who were consuming more fruit-juice at baseline were more interested in preparing fruit-juice recipes, more amenable to the goal setting process, and thereby benefited the most. Because food preparation occurred at home, the lack of support for such activities in some families might have been a barrier for some students. Perhaps some of the recipes could be prepared in the classroom, giving all students an opportunity to practice and become more interested in preparing and consuming the foods .
A significant increase in post vegetable consumption with the achievement of zero or one vegetable recipe preparation goal was detected for those with high baseline vegetable consumption. There was little additional consumption for achieving more preparation goals. The ideal number of goals for an intervention period is not known, and may differ based on preferences, consumption, and family factors. Only 30% of students reported completing session 4 goals which were all vegetable recipes. In contrast, 50–68% of the fruit recipe preparation goals were achieved. Session 8 recipes were vegetables, but included vegetable burritos, a rice-vegetable mixture and vegetable soup; 50% of these were achieved. Perhaps increasing vegetable consumption is more difficult than increasing fruit-juice consumption because of generally low preferences for and consumption of vegetables . Perhaps the process of change takes more time than allowed in the sequencing of and time allotted in the game. Children might need several weeks to practice vegetable recipe preparation and change meal eating habits. This is an important area for future research.
Girls reported more success with recipe preparation goal setting than boys, which may be supported by findings that women were marginally more likely to be influenced by food sampling . These differences in the effectiveness of recipe preparation goal achievement suggest this process may need to be tailored to specific baseline characteristics such as gender, preferences or consumption.
Better results for students whose parents had lower educational achievement were found for fruit-juice recipe preparation, while higher education of the parent was associated with more vegetable recipe preparation. Home availability of lower preferred vegetables may be a problem for lower income children. These results indicate the need for further research on gender and family educational differences in recipe preparation goal setting that may influence future application of goal setting in interventions.
There are several limitations that should be noted. Participants were from one large urban school district in southeast Texas which limits generalizability to fourth grade students in other areas or states, or to students in other grades. Although recipe goal achievement was verified by parental report, some parental verifications may not have been valid (which suggests that goal setting might be an even stronger predictor of change if we had more valid goal achievement data). No data were available on student access to ingredients or equipment in the home, or on parent experiences with student recipe preparation. Future research in this area should assess these important factors. There are also not data on dose, i.e. whether the attainment of two or three goals would have improved consumption. All data were collected by self-report which is subject to human error and minimizes the likelihood of detecting relationships . To minimize the possible problem of interviewer induced error, all data were collected directly by computer and trained data collectors were present in all classrooms during the intervention to promote accuracy while students were completing their computer collected data. The dietary recall methods used in this study were validated, but were somewhat less accurate than dietitian-completed 24-hour diet records . These results may be the result of chance by introducing interaction terms, but most of the tests were highly statistically significant. While capitalizing on chance is a possibility that needs to be cross-validated in future tests of these relationships, the findings were detected despite unreliability in all the measures.
These findings suggest that the true relationships between goal setting and achievement for recipe preparation and dietary intake are more complex than previously believed, and deserve more careful exploration. Consumption was measured before and after the 10 sessions, not when the student was to prepare the specific fruit-juice or vegetable recipes. Perhaps some goals were successfully achieved, but the change was not permanent, or not implemented at a level sufficient to be reflected in total consumption. These findings need to be replicated. No other data are available to which to compare the number of fruit-juice and vegetable recipe preparation goals achieved for change in fruit, 100% juice, and vegetable consumption.
The strengths of this study include a large sample of children in one grade (which limits the influence of developmental differences), a substantial dietary change (1.0 serving) resulting from the intervention, and multiple days of dietary assessment to enhance reliability of the dependent variable. Further intervention research should develop and test methods to increase the levels of child fruit-juice and vegetable recipe goal achievement; develop and test methods to reduce error in assessing recipe goal achievement (e.g., phone calls to parents); explain why some goals were related to dietary behavior change and others were not; identify the optimum number of goals per intervention or per unit of time; and assess whether gender and SES differences in these relationships might require tailoring of goals.
Although goal setting and food preparation are believed to be important components of successful dietary behavior change, little research has assessed whether goal setting contributes to successful intervention outcomes. In the current research with fourth grade children, modest effects were found for fruit-juice and vegetable recipe goal achievement in regard to dietary fruit, 100% fruit juice, and vegetable behavior change. Practitioners should be encouraged to include recipe goal setting in interventions with children, and include assessment of goal setting success in evaluations.