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Transdisciplinary research

Eating practices and diet quality: a population study of four Nordic countries

Abstract

Background/objectives:

Daily practices related to eating are embedded in the social and cultural contexts of everyday life. How are such factors associated with diet quality relative to motivational factors? And, are associations universal or context-specific? We analyze the relationship between diet quality and the following practices: social company while eating, the regularity and duration of eating and the activity of watching TV while eating.

Subjects/methods:

A cross-sectional, questionnaire-based internet survey was conducted in April 2012 with stratified random samples of the populations (aged 15–80 years) in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden (N=7531, completion rate 9–13%). The questionnaire elicited detailed accounts of one day of eating focusing on social and practical aspects of eating events. The validated Dietary Quality Score was the dependent variable. This measure is based on eight food frequency questions focusing on fats, vegetables, fruits and fish in the diet.

Results:

Eating activities were associated with diet quality even when motivation to eat healthily and sociodemographic factors were controlled for. The number of daily eating events and eating main meals was positively correlated with diet quality in all countries. Beyond that, activities that were significantly associated with diet quality varied with country. When measured separately, the association between each activity and diet quality was weaker than motivation to eat healthily, but in combinations that are found in parts of the populations, the association was substantial.

Conclusions:

Daily practices related to eating are correlated with diet quality. Practices that are important are in part universal but also country-specific. Efforts to promote healthy eating should address not only cognitive factors but also everyday contexts of eating that facilitate or hamper healthy practices.

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Acknowledgements

The study was supported financially by the Joint Committee for Nordic Research Councils for the Humanities and Social Sciences (NOS-HS). The study design was devised by the authors and project partners: Marianne Pipping Ekström, University of Gothenburg; Jukka Gronow, University of Helsinki; Unni Kjærnes, National Institute for Consumer Research, Oslo; Johanna Mäkelä, University of Helsinki.

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Correspondence to L Holm.

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Holm, L., Lund, T. & Niva, M. Eating practices and diet quality: a population study of four Nordic countries. Eur J Clin Nutr 69, 791–798 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/ejcn.2015.61

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