Most of the present literature stated that the lower SES group chose foods that were cheap and less healthy as a result of their financial constraints. Research findings showed that those from lower SES group were much affected by the increasing food price, which might have adverse effects on nutritional and health status (19). However, our study had outlined several factors, which will be thoroughly discussed. This study examined the food consumption of low-income, single mothers. They were categorised based on their respective groups; lean/normal (BMI < 25) and overweight/obese (BMI > 25). Next, they had been asked to rank their food consumption preferences based on the Malaysia Food Pyramid. The findings showed a difference between lean/normal and overweight/obese subjects food consumption pattern for the vegetables and fruits category. Those who had lean/normal body weight consumed fruits and vegetables adequately. On the other hand, subjects who were overweight/obese consumed fruits and vegetables in moderation based on the Malaysia Food Pyramid. Several research findings had supported the relationship between a low BMI and the intake of fruit and vegetables (20, 21). Although there were findings highlighted that lower SES groups consume fewer fruits and vegetables daily (22, 23), this study proved otherwise. The study, therefore, showed that the subjects still consumed and prioritise to add vegetables and fruits categories in their food intakes.
On the other hand, both groups consumed a high amount of carbohydrates. Nevertheless, those who were overweight/obese still did indulge more. This was a predictable result as rice is Malaysia's staple food. These choices were typical because of Malaysian culture. Malaysia is part of the Southeast Asian region of countries and is known as the rice bowl of Asia. Therefore, Malaysians consume a lot of carbohydrate type of foods (24). However, excess intake of carbohydrates could lead to health problems such as obesity (25). Overall, the findings indicated that the majority of the subjects were obese (BMI > 25). Meanwhile, foods such as dairy, protein and legumes were taking in adequate and least consumption of fat, oil, sugar and salt food category. Based on the Malaysia Food Pyramid, people should consume fats, oil, sugar and salt in a little amount. As such, subjects from both groups were aware, and the majority of them consumed less fat, oil, sugar, and salt.
Generally, the results showed that the food consumption for both groups was inconsistent for one food category; vegetables and fruits, despite the recommendations outlined by the Malaysia Food Pyramid. Subjects who were overweight/obese (BMI > 25) consumed plenty of carbohydrates and consumed vegetables and fruits in moderation. Meanwhile, subjects who were lean/normal (BMI < 25), consumed plenty of carbohydrates and consume vegetables and fruits in adequate Nonetheless, there were only minor discrepancies because of Malaysia's staple food. Foods such as dairy, protein, legumes, oil, sugar and salt were equivalent to the guidelines. In general, subjects with low SES had dietary intake recommendations that were closely linked to the Malaysia Food Pyramid. The findings obtained from this study did not coincide with the hypothesis of the research by (4–7), which stated that subjects from a low socioeconomic status chose to consume unhealthy food. It was probably due to the gender of the subjects in the research; women. The women's diet was qualitatively and quantitatively different from men (26). Women were in charge of purchasing, preparing, cooking, and consuming food that is considered healthy, besides that their diet complemented the dietary guidelines. Hence, the results of the present study were consistent with the findings by Inglis et.al (26). The subjects were aware of the need to adhere to the food pyramid recommendations. It was concluded based on the significant number of subjects who were satisfied with their food consumption based on the Malaysian Food Pyramid. Besides that, the food preparation also played a vital role in the study too. The findings showed that the majority of the subjects from both groups cooked food themselves. Therefore, they were aware of their choices of ingredients and food preparations. Besides, more than 50% of the subjects perceived their health and diet to be in good condition.
Several limitations to the present study should be highlighted. First, the study used the Malaysian Food Pyramid as a tool for getting information on nutrition and dietary patterns among respondents. Ideally, the information asked based on the specific amount of food intake on five food groups. For example, how many servings of food consumption from each level; Level 1 (rice, noodles, bread and cereals), Level 2 (vegetables and fruits), Level 3 (milky, dairy products, fish, chicken, meat and legumes) and Level 4 (fat, oil, sugar and salt). However, based on the pilot study, we found the respondents difficult to state and interpreted the specific amount of food servings. Alternatively, we adopt the terms; eat plenty (vegetables and fruit), eat adequately (carbohydrates), eat-in moderation (dairy products, protein and legumes) and eat less (fat, oil, sugar and salt). We have tested a few ways and decided to use the ranking approach in elucidating the dietary information based on the food pyramid. Second, most of the respondents are self-employed, and it is a challenge to gather them within the specified time and date. It takes a toll in terms of duration, though, we managed to get a good number of respondents voluntarily through the Kuala Nerus District Single Mothers Association, with the assistance of the State government.