OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to identify factors influencing eating behavior of Ecuadorian adolescents - from the perspective of parents, school staff and adolescents - to develop a conceptual framework for adolescents' eating behavior.
STUDY DESIGN: Twenty focus groups (N=144 participants) were conducted separately with adolescents aged 11-15 y (n (focus groups)=12, N (participants)=80), parents (n=4, N=32) and school staff (n=4, N=32) in rural and urban Ecuador. A semi-structured questioning route was developed based on the 'Attitude, Social influences and Self-efficacy' model and the socio-ecological model to assess the relevance of behavioral and environmental factors in low- and middle-income countries. Two researchers independently analyzed verbatim transcripts for emerging themes, using deductive thematic content analysis. Data were analyzed using NVivo 8.
RESULTS: All groups recognized the importance of eating healthily and key individual factors in Ecuadorian adolescents' food choices were: financial autonomy, food safety perceptions, lack of self-control, habit strength, taste preferences and perceived peer norms. Environmental factors included the poor nutritional quality of food and its easy access at school. In their home and family environment, time and convenience completed the picture as barriers to eating healthily. Participants acknowledged the impact of the changing socio-cultural environment on adolescents' eating patterns. Availability of healthy food at home and financial constraints differed between settings and socio-economic groups.
CONCLUSION: Our findings endorse the importance of investigating behavioral and environmental factors that influence and mediate healthy dietary behavior prior to intervention development. Several culture-specific factors emerged that were incorporated into a conceptual framework for developing health promotion interventions in Ecuador.