Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • Original Communication
  • Published:

The Adolescent Food Habits Checklist: reliability and validity of a measure of healthy eating behaviour in adolescents


Objective: Amid concerns about the quality of young people's diets, this paper describes the development of a measure of healthy eating behaviour for use with adolescents.

Design: Items for the measure were selected from a larger pool on the basis of responses from a pilot study. The 23-item checklist was validated using measures of dietary fat and fibre intake, fruit and vegetable consumption, dietary restraint, nutrition knowledge and a measure of family income.

Setting: Participants came from seven secondary schools in the north-west of England.

Subjects: A total of 1822 adolescents aged between 13 and 16 y took part in the study, representing 84% of those invited to participate.

Results: Correlations between measures indicate a good level of convergent validity, and the checklist is also shown to have high internal and test–retest reliability.

Conclusions: The focus on choices available to adolescents means that the checklist will provide a useful addition to food frequency-type approaches to the measurement of adolescent eating behaviour.

Sponsorship: This research was funded by the Medical Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council's Health Variations Programme.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Similar content being viewed by others


  • Adams L . 1997 An overview of adolescent eating behaviour barriers to implementing dietary guidelines Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. 817: 36–48

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Anderson AS, MacIntyre S, West P . 1993 Adolescent meal patterns: grazing habits in the west of Scotland Health Bull. (Edinb.) 51: 158–165

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Anderson AS, MacIntyre S, West P . 1994 Dietary patterns among adolescents in the west of Scotland Br. J. Nutr. 71: 111–122

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Birkett NJ, Boulet J . 1995 Validation of a food habits questionnaire: poor performance in male manual labourers J. Am. Diet. Assoc. 95: 558–563

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Cavadini C, Siega-Riz AM, Popkin BM . 2000 US adolescent food intake trends from 1965–1996 Arch. Dis. Child 83: 18–24

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Crawley HF . 1993 The energy, nutrient and food intakes of teenagers aged 16–17 y in Britain. (1) Energy, macronutrients and non-starch polysaccarides Br. J. Nutr. 70: 15–26

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Crawley HF, While D . 1996 Parental smoking and the nutrient intake and food choice of British teenagers aged 16–17 y J. Epidemiol. Community Health 50: 306–312

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Devaney BL, Gordon AR, Burghardt JA . 1995 Dietary intakes of students Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 61: 205s–212s

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Feunekes GI, de Graaf C, Meyboom S, van Staveren WA . 1998 Food choice and fat intake of adolescents and adults: associations of intakes within social networks Prev. Med. 27: 645–656

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Hann CS, Rock CL, King I, Drewnowski A . 2001 Validation of the Healthy Eating Index with use of plasma biomarkers in a clinical sample of women Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 74: 479–486

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Hurson M, Corish C . 1997 Evaluation of lifestyle, food consumption and nutrient intake patterns among Irish teenagers Ir. J. Med. Sci. 166: 225–230

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Johansson L, Thelle DS, Solvoll K, Bjorneboe GE, Drevon CA . 1999 Healthy dietary habits in relation to social determinants and lifestyle factors Br. J. Nutr. 81: 211–220

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Knapp JA, Hazuda HP, Haffner SM, Young EA, Stern MP . 1988 A saturated fat/cholesterol avoidance scale: sex and ethnic differences in a biethnic population J. Am. Diet. Assoc. 88: 172–177

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Kristal AR, Shattuck AL, Henry HJ . 1990 Patterns of dietary behavior associated with selecting diets low in fat: reliability and validity of a behavioural approach to dietary assessment J. Am. Diet. Assoc. 90: 214–220

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Lytle LA, Stone EJ, Nichaman MZ, Perry CL, Montgomery DH, Nicklas TA et al. 1996 Changes in nutrient intakes of elementary school children following a school-based intervention: results of the CATCH study Prev. Med. 25: 465–477

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Margetts BM, Thompson RL, Speller V, McVey D . 1998 Factors which influence ‘healthy’ eating patterns: results from the 1993 Health Education Authority health and lifestyle survey in England Public Health Nutr. 1: 193–198

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Milligan RA, Burke V, Beilin LJ, Dunbar DL, Spencer MJ, Balde E, Gracey MP . 1998 Influence of gender and socioeconomic status on dietary patterns and nutrient intakes in 18 y old Australians Aust. N.Z. J. Public Health 22: 485–493

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Monneuse MO, Bellisle F, Koppert G . 1997 Eating habits, food and health related attitudes and beliefs reported by French students Eur. J. Clin. Nutr. 51: 46–53

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Neumark-Sztainer D, Story M, Resnick MD, Blum RW . 1998 Lessons learned about adolescent nutrition from the Minnesota Adolescent Health Survey J. Am. Diet. Assoc. 98: 1449–1456

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Nichter M, Ritenbaugh C, Nichter M, Vuckovic N, Aickin M . 1995 Dieting and watching behaviours among adolescent females: report of a multimethod study J. Adolesc. Health 17: 153–162

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Parmenter K, Wardle J . 1999 Development of a Nutrition Knowledge Questionnaire Eur. J. Clin. Nutr. 53: 298–308

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Prescott-Clarke P, Primatesta P . 1998 Health Survey for England: The Health of Young People 1995–1997 London: The Stationery Office

    Google Scholar 

  • Prewitt TE, Durazo-Arvisu R, McGee DL, Luke A, Cooper RS . 1997 One size fits all: implications for assessing dietary behaviour J. Am. Diet. Assoc. 97: s70–s72

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Roe L, Strong C, Whiteside C, Neil A, Mant D . 1994 Dietary assessment in primary care: validity of the DINE method for dietary assessment Fam. Pract. 11: 375–381

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Samuelson G, Bratteby LE, Enghardt H, Hedgren M . 1996 Food habits and energy and nutrient intake in Swedish adolescents approaching the year 2000 Acta Paediatr. 415: (Suppl): 1–19

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Shannon J, Kristal AR, Curry SJ, Beresford SA . 1997 Application of a behavioral approach to measuring dietary change: the fat and fibre related diet questionnaire Cancer Epidemiol. Biomarkers Prev. 6: 355–361

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Siega-Riz AM, Carson T, Popkin B . 1998 Three squares or mostly snacks—what do teens really eat? A sociodemographic study of meal patterns J. Adolesc. Health 22: 29–36

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Sjoden P, Fellenius J, Lappalainen R . 1986 Assessment methods for eating behavior, food intake and food preferences Scand. J. Behav. Ther. 15: 163–177

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Speed E, West P, Sweeting H . 1998 The west of Scotland 11–16 study. Basic frequencies of the 13 y old (S2) sweep MRC Medical Sociology Unit Working Paper no. 66

  • Steptoe A, Wardle J . 1999 Motivational factors as mediators of socioeconomic variation in dietary intake patterns Psychol Health 14: 391–402

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Townsend P, Phillimore P, Beattie A . 1988 Health and deprivation: inequality and the north London: Croom Helm

    Google Scholar 

  • Van S, trien T, Frijters JE, Bergers GP, Defares PB . 1986 The Dutch Eating Behaviour Questionnaire (DEBQ) for assessment of restrained, emotional and external eating behaviour Int. J. Eat. Disord. 5: 295–315

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wardle J . 1987 Eating style: a validation of the Dutch Eating Behaviour Questionnaire in normal subjects and women with eating disorders J. Psychosom. Res. 31: 161–169

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Wardle J, Steptoe A, Bellisle F, Davou B, Reschke K, Lappalainen R, Fredrikson M . 1997 Healthy Dietary practices among European students Health Psychol. 16: 443–450

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Wardle J, Griffith J, Johnson F, Rapoport L . 2000a Intentional weight control and food choice habits in a national representative sample of adults in the UK Int. J. Obes. Relat. Metab. Disord. 24: 534–540

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Wardle J, Parmenter K, Waller J . 2000b Nutrition knowledge and food intake Appetite 34: 269–275

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Wardle J, Johnson F, Robb K . J. Epidemiol. Community Health (in press)

  • World Health Organization. 1990 Diet, nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases WHO Technical Report Series no. 797 Geneva: WHO

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to J Wardle.

Appendix: The Adolescent Food Habits Checklist

Appendix: The Adolescent Food Habits Checklist

  1. 1

    If I am having lunch away from home, I often choose a low-fat option. True/False/I never have lunch away from home

  2. 2

    I usually avoid eating fried foods. True/False

  3. 3

    I usually eat a dessert or pudding if there is one available. True/False

  4. 4

    I make sure I eat at least one serving of fruit a day. True/False

  5. 5

    I try to keep my overall fat intake down. True/False

  6. 6

    If I am buying crisps, I often choose a low-fat brand. True/False/I never buy crisps

  7. 7

    I avoid eating lots of sausages and burgers. True/False/I never eat sausages or burgers

  8. 8

    I often buy pastries or cakes. True/False

  9. 9

    I try to keep my overall sugar intake down. True/False

  10. 10

    I make sure I eat at least one serving of vegetables or salad a day. True/False

  11. 11

    If I am having a dessert at home, I try to have something low in fat. True/False/I don't eat desserts

  12. 12

    I rarely eat takeaway meals. True/False

  13. 13

    I try to ensure I eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. True/False

  14. 14

    I often eat sweet snacks between meals. True/False

  15. 15

    I usually eat at least one serving of vegetables (excluding potatoes) or salad with my evening meal. True/False

  16. 16

    When I am buying a soft drink, I usually choose a diet drink. True/False/I never buy soft drinks

  17. 17

    When I put butter or margarine on bread, I usually spread it thinly. True/False/I never have butter or margarine on bread

  18. 18

    If I have a packed lunch, I usually include some chocolate and/or biscuits. True/False/I never have a packed lunch

  19. 19

    When I have a snack between meals, I often choose fruit. True/False/I never eat snacks between meals

  20. 20

    If I am having a dessert or pudding in a restaurant, I usually choose the healthiest one. True/False/I never have desserts in restaurants

  21. 21

    I often have cream on desserts. True/False/I don't eat desserts

  22. 22

    I eat at least three servings of fruit most days. True/False

  23. 23

    I generally try to have a healthy diet. True/False

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Johnson, F., Wardle, J. & Griffith, J. The Adolescent Food Habits Checklist: reliability and validity of a measure of healthy eating behaviour in adolescents. Eur J Clin Nutr 56, 644–649 (2002).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


This article is cited by


Quick links