Breaking Breakfast Habits: Strategies for Healthier and More Sustainable Breakfast Habits.

R.A. de Wijk*, E.H. Zandstra, H. Visser, B.P.M. van Dijk, S. Meijboom, M.H. Vingerhoeds

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Current dietary patterns are often sub-optimal from a health and/or an ecological perspective. Changing dietary patterns is desirable, but difficult because of the persistence of food habits. Food habits are especially strong in breakfasting. This study explores two strategies for dietary behavioural change during breakfast: stacking, where a food component is added to an existing food habit, and swapping, where one food component is replaced by another one. Ninety-one participants (72 females, 19 males) adjusted their daily breakfast habits for four weeks by either adding a healthy food component (apple) to their existing breakfast or by swapping their less- sustainable dairy product for a more sustainable plant-based product (soy milk or soy yoghurt). Participant’s choice and liking of the breakfast was monitored daily with short questionnaires, whereas other information was collected weekly using more extensive questionnaires. The results showed that both swapping and stacking strategies were equally effective during the 4-week study period (compliance>94%). During the study period liking for all three products increased initially but levelled off after 2 weeks for apples and soy yoghurt, whereas liking for soy milk continued to increase (p<0.05). All products were liked better by participants who scored relatively low on the HTAS reward and pleasure dimensions. The suitability of soy milk as breakfast component increased during the study period, whereas the suitability of the other products was either stable (apple) or decreased (soy yoghurt). The strength of the breakfast habit increased after the first week for apple and soy milk and decreased for soy yoghurt, signalling a growing integration of apple and soy milk in the existing breakfast habit. Breakfasts with apple triggered more positive emotions after 3 weeks than the two breakfasts with soy products. Four weeks after the end of the study period, voluntary compliance with the products dropped to 26% for soy milk and to 15%-18% for apple and soy yoghurt. The results suggest that a long-lasting breakfast modification requires 1) a relatively small modification whereby one item is replaced by another item that serves the same function (e.g., replacing cow milk by soy milk), 2) a breakfast item that is increasingly liked over repeated exposure, and 3) does not require additional preparation. These findings provide a good basis for further research into consumer’s food habits, how they evolve and change, to ultimately facilitate development of new sustainable food products that better fit in existing and new habits.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1142
JournalJournal of Human Nutrition & Food Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2021


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