Open Access Research

Development and validation of a screening instrument to assess the types and quality of foods served at home meals

Jayne A Fulkerson1*, Leslie Lytle2, Mary Story2, Stacey Moe2, Anne Samuelson23 and Audrey Weymiller1

Author Affiliations

1 School of Nursing, University of Minnesota, 5-160 Weaver-Densford Hall, 308 Harvard Street SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA

2 Division of Epidemiology & Community Health, University of Minnesota, 1300 South Second Street, Suite 300, Minneapolis, MN 55454, USA

3 Human Development & Family Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, USA

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2012, 9:10  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-9-10

Published: 7 February 2012

Abstract

Background

Although there is growing interest in assessing the home food environment, no easy-to-use, low cost tools exist to assess the foods served at home meals, making it difficult to assess the meal component of the food environment. The aim of this study was to develop and validate a user-friendly screener to assess the types of foods served at home meals.

Methods

Primary food preparing adults (n = 51) participated in a validation study in their own homes. Staff and participants independently completed a screener as participants cooked dinner. The screener assessed the types of foods offered, method(s) of preparation, and use of added fats. Two scale scores were created: 1) to assess offerings of foods in five food groups (meat and other protein, milk, vegetables, fruit, grains), 2) to assess the relative healthfulness of foods based on types offered, preparation method, and added fats. Criterion validity was assessed comparing staff and participant reports of individual foods (kappa (k)) and scale scores (Spearman correlations).

Results

Criterion validity was high between participants' and staffs' record of whether major food categories (meat and other protein, bread and cereal, salad, vegetables, fruits, dessert) were served (k = 0.79-1.0), moderate for reports of other starches (e.g., rice) being served (k = 0.52), and high for the Five Food Group and Healthfulness scale scores (r = 0.75-0.85, p < .001).

Conclusions

This new meal screening tool has high validity and can be used to assess the types of foods served at home meals allowing a more comprehensive assessment of the home food environment.

Keywords:
Validation; Meal screener; Dinner; Home; Families; Food