Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Human Ecology

Major Professor

Jean D. Skinner

Committee Members

Betty R. Carruth, Carol A. Costello, Edward T. Howley


This study was conducted to examine factors influencing the nutritional habits of adolescents during and after pregnancy. Data were collected on 97 white adolescents during the third trimester of pregnancy, and on 64 of the same adolescents at one year postpartum. The study included three components: (a) an exploration of reported changes in eating habits and reasons for the changes; (b) a semi-structured interview used to obtain information about appetite compulsions (cravings, aversions, and pica); and (c) a sensory analysis of preferences for 16 specific foods.

Data showed that adolescents made positive changes in their diets during pregnancy; 64% reported eating more food, and over half reported increased intakes of milk and dairy products, fruits and vegetables, and breads and cereals. Reasons for dietary change included both endogenous (physiological) and exogenous factors. Most of the adolescents experienced cravings and aversions during pregnancy. Foods reported as craved most often included sweets, especially chocolate, ice cream, fresh fruits and juices, pickles, pizza, and fast foods. Aversions were most often reported to eggs, meats, and pizza. Adolescents indicated that cravings led to increased intake, and aversions resulted in decreased food consumption. Based on sensory analysis, the pregnant adolescents preferred whole over skim milk, and salted chips, nuts, and crackers over the low-salt/unsalted varieties; they did not prefer ice cream over ice milk or yogurt.

Postpartum adolescents indicated several changes in dietary habits after pregnancy. Consumption of dairy products and fruits and vegetables often were reported to be lower than during pregnancy, and consumption of fast foods, sodas, and spicy foods were higher. Although rates were reportedly lower, appetite compulsions did occur during the first year postpartum. Analysis of the sensory data showed that preferences for whole and skim milk were higher during the last trimester of pregnancy than one year later. No other differences between pregnancy and postpartum food preferences were identified.

The average diet consumed by the pregnant adolescents met or exceeded the RDAs for all nutrients except iron, folate, vitamin D, vitamin B6, magnesium, and selenium. At 12 months postpartum, mean intakes of energy and all nutrients were lower; nutrient density was lower; and greater numbers of postpartum adolescents consumed diets that did not meet the RDA for each nutrient.

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