Beverage Characteristics Perceived as Healthy Among Hispanic and African-American Parents of Young Children

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics




Nutrition; Obesity; Pediatrics; Sugary drinks; Toddlers


Background: It is recommended that children younger than 6 years of age avoid sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs); yet, 25% of toddlers and 45% of preschool-aged children consume SSBs on a given day, with the highest intakes reported among Hispanic and African-American children. Objective: To investigate characteristics that predominantly low-income Hispanic and African-American parents perceive to reflect a healthy beverage, and to examine the influence of these characteristics on parents’ perceptions of the beverages they provide to their young children. Design: This study consisted of two activities: a qualitative activity where parents (n = 102) were asked to report what characteristics they perceive to reflect a healthy beverage and a quantitative activity where parents (n = 96) indicated the extent to which each of the reported characteristics influence parents’ perceptions of the beverages they provide to their young children. Participants and setting: Hispanic and African-American parents of young children (younger than 6 years of age) were recruited from the District of Columbia metropolitan area. Main outcome measures: Beverage characteristics and influence scores. Statisical analyses performed: Characteristics were categorized by the research team based on their perceived meaning. Perceived influence scores for each characteristic and category were compared across Hispanic and African-American parents using nonparametric, Mann-Whitney U tests, and false discovery rate adjustment was used to correct for multiple testing. Results: The characteristics perceived to be most influential included those pertaining to perceived beverage sugar and sweetener content, being natural, and containing certain nutrients. Characteristics such as being homemade, made with fruit, and containing vitamins were reported to be more influential among Hispanic parents compared with African-American parents. Conclusions: Findings emphasize the need to address misperceptions about the healthfulness of beverages among Hispanic and African-American parents. Differences in the perceived influence of specific beverage characteristics across Hispanic and African-American parents underscore the importance of developing culturally relevant interventions to improve parents’ beverage selection for their children.