Background: Poor diet quality is a major public health concern that has prompted governments to introduce a range of measures to promote healthy eating. For these measures to be effective, they should target segments of the population with messages relevant to their needs, aspirations and circumstances. The present study investigates the extent to which attitudes and constraints influence healthy eating, as well as how these vary by demographic characteristics of the UK population. It further considers how such information may be used in segmented diet and health policy messages.
Methods: A survey of 250 UK adults elicited information on conformity to dietary guidelines, attitudes towards healthy eating, constraints to healthy eating and demographic characteristics. Ordered logit regressions were estimated to determine the importance of attitudes and constraints in determining how closely respondents follow healthy eating guidelines. Further regressions explored the demographic characteristics associated with the attitudinal and constraint variables.
Results: People who attach high importance to their own health and appearance eat more healthily than those who do not. Risk-averse people and those able to resist temptation also eat more healthily. Shortage of time is considered an important barrier to healthy eating, although the cost of a healthy diet is not. These variables are associated with a number of demographic characteristics of the population; for example, young adults are more motivated to eat healthily by concerns over their appearance than their health.
Conclusions: The approach employed in the present study could be used to inform future healthy eating campaigns. For example, messages to encourage the young to eat more healthily could focus on the impact of diets on their appearance rather than health.