Strategies used by overweight and obese low-income mothers to feed their families in urban Brazil

Priscila de Morais Sato, Ramiro Fernandes Unsain, Joel Gittelsohn, João Gabriel Sanches Tavares da Silva, Isabel Cristina Gonçalves Perez, Fernanda Baeza Scagliusi

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Abstract

Objective To describe and compare strategies adopted by overweight and obese low-income mothers living in different vulnerable contexts to deal with food constraints and feed their families. Design Qualitative in-depth interviews. Data were analyzed with exploratory content analysis and the number of segments per theme was used to compare neighborhoods. Setting Three low-income neighborhoods in Santos, Brazil. Participants A purposive sample of 21 overweight or obese mothers. Results We identified three main types of strategies, namely, food acquisition, cooking, and eating. Food acquisition included social support and food-sourcing strategies. Social support strategies ranged from macro (governmental programs) to micro (family) levels. Food-sourcing strategies involved price research and use of credit to buy foods. Cooking approaches included optimizing food (e.g., adding water to beans), avoiding wastefulness, and substitutions (e.g., using water instead of milk when making cakes). Eating themes ranged from lack of quantity to lack of quality. Strategies to deal with the lack of food were affected by family dynamics, such as prioritizing provision of fruits to children. Food choices (e.g., low consumption of fruits and high consumption of fatty meats) derived from strategies may help promote overweight and obesity. Furthermore, for participants, financial constraints were perceived as barriers to following nutritionists’ recommendations and weight loss. Conclusions This study highlights the barriers that low-income women face in adopting a healthy diet and sheds light on the importance of the symbolic value of food, even in the context of food insecurity. Finally, it suggests that environmental aspects could increase the accessibility to fruits and vegetables. These findings could be used to inform the planning and implementation of interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-70
Number of pages8
JournalAppetite
Volume111
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017

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Keywords

  • Brazil
  • Food insecurity
  • Low-income
  • Obesity
  • Overweight
  • Women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

Cite this

de Morais Sato, P., Unsain, R. F., Gittelsohn, J., Sanches Tavares da Silva, J. G., Gonçalves Perez, I. C., & Baeza Scagliusi, F. (2017). Strategies used by overweight and obese low-income mothers to feed their families in urban Brazil. Appetite, 111, 63-70. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2016.12.033