Healthy eating strategies: Individually different or context-dependent?

Muriel C.D. Verain*, Emily P. Bouwman, Joris Galama, Machiel J. Reinders

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Individuals can apply different healthy eating strategies to help them make healthy eating choices. Previous research showed that individuals differ in their preferred strategy, but also that a mix of strategies is often applied by a single person across contexts. The current research investigated the extent to which differences within an individual across contexts (i.e., meal moments, social environment and physical environment) predicted openness to healthy eating strategies in addition to personal predictors that differ between individuals (i.e., intrinsic motivation, self-efficacy, physical opportunity and social opportunity). A representative sample of the Dutch adult population was recruited (N = 892). The within-individual (contextual) predictors were measured nine times just before a meal moment over a period of three weeks, by means of a smartphone application. The between-individual (personal) predictors were administered with a baseline questionnaire. Exploratory factor analysis distinguished three healthy eating strategies: Increasing healthy foods, Limiting unhealthy foods and consuming Light products. A random intercept model, in which within-individual predictors and between-individual predictors were entered successively, showed that context matters for openness to all three strategies, but is most important for increasing healthy foods and least important for light products. Individuals are most open to increase healthy foods at dinner as compared to breakfast, whereas the opposite is true for limiting unhealthy foods and consuming light products. Eating at home is beneficial for openness to all three strategies and eating with others positively influences openness to increase healthy foods but has no effect on the other strategies. Insights gained from this research increase our understanding of an individual's openness to apply healthy eating strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105759
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022


  • Between-individual differences
  • Eating context
  • Healthy eating strategies
  • Within-individual differences


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