Lay Perceptions of Healthy Eating Styles and Their Health Impacts

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Abstract

Objective:

This study examined perceptions of healthy eating styles among US respondents to determine whether eating styles are defined as a distinct set of people's healthy eating beliefs and how different aspects of eating styles are perceived to affect health.

Design:

In-person pile sort activities were used to identify key dimensions of healthy eating beliefs, and online surveys were used to confirm these dimensions and examine perceived health benefits of healthy eating styles.

Participants:

The pile-sorting activity recruited 48 US participants in the Phoenix metropolitan area via social media and snowball sampling. Online surveys recruited US participants via Amazon Mechanical Turk (survey 1, n = 70; survey 2, n = 283).

Analysis:

The researchers used an exploratory visualizing technique (multidimensional scaling) to analyze pile sort data; Property Filling (PROFIT) analysis was used to analyze online survey 1; paired sample t test and repeated-measures ANOVA were used to analyze online survey 2.

Results:

Eating styles are a distinct set of beliefs within lay models of healthful diets (P < .001) viewed as important for a number of health outcomes, including weight management.

Conclusions and Implications:

In addition to educating the public about choosing healthy food characteristics, health and nutrition professionals may need to address people's beliefs regarding healthy eating styles to identify gaps and misconceptions. Future research is needed to examine the relationships between such beliefs and corresponding behaviors, as well as whether these behaviors result in any health benefits.

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