Making Snack Food Choices: Are “Bad Intentions” Stronger Than “Good Intentions?”

New study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior

Philadelphia, PA, September 11, 2008 – People who are asked whether they would choose between a “good” snack and a “bad” snack might not follow their intentions when the snacks arrive. In an article in the September/October 2008 issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, Dutch researchers found that there is a substantial inconsistency between healthful snack choice intentions and actual behavior.

Participants were asked about their intentions in choosing among four snacks: an apple, a banana, a candy bar and a molasses waffle. About half of the participants indicated they would choose the apple or banana—a “healthy” snack. But when presented, one week later, with the actual snacks, 27% switched to the candy bar or waffle. Over 90% of the unhealthy-choice participants stuck with their intentions and chose the unhealthy snack. The study included 585 participants who were office employees recruited in their worksite cafeterias.

Although intentions are often tightly linked to what people really do, it doesn’t always work that way. One explanation is that intentions are usually under cognitive control while actual choices are often made impulsively, even unconsciously.

At times, the link between intentions and behavior is stronger. In healthy eating behavior, a strong positive attitude toward healthy eating, a high level of dietary restraint and regular consumption of healthy foods could increase the healthy intention-behavior consistency.

Investigator Pascalle Weijzen, Division of Human Nutrition, Wageningen University, The Netherlands, comments that “a substantial gap between healthy snack choice intentions and actual behavior was demonstrated. Despite that gap, the results suggest that individuals who plan to make a healthful choice are more likely to do so than those who plan to make unhealthful choices. Because more than 50% of the population seems to have no intention at all of making a healthful choice, identifying tools by which this group can be motivated to choose a healthful snack is strongly needed.”

The article is “Discrepancy Between Snack Choice Intentions and Behavior” by Pascalle L.G. Weijzen, MSc; Cees de Graaf, PhD; and Garmt B. Dijksterhuis, PhD. It appears in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, Volume 40, Issue 5 (September/October 2008).

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Full text of the article is available upon request; contact Megan Curran at +1 215 239-3666 or m.curran@elsevier.com to obtain copies. To schedule an interview with the lead author please contact Pascalle L.G. Weijzen at +31 570 695954 or pascalle.weijzen@frieslandfoods.com.

About the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior
The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (JNEB), the official journal of the Society for Nutrition Education (SNE), is a refereed, scientific periodical that serves as a resource for all professionals with an interest in nutrition education and dietary/physical activity behaviors. The purpose of JNEB is to document and disseminate original research, emerging issues and practices relevant to nutrition education and behavior worldwide and to promoting healthy, sustainable food choices. It supports the society’s efforts to disseminate innovative nutrition education strategies; and communicate information on food, nutrition and health issues to students, professionals, policy makers, targeted audiences and the public.

The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior features articles that provide new insights and useful findings related to nutrition education research, practice and policy. The content areas of JNEB reflect the diverse interests of health, nutrition, education, Cooperative Extension and other professionals working in areas related to nutrition education and behavior. As the Society's official journal, JNEB also includes occasional policy statements, issue perspectives, and member communications.

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Media Contact:
Megan Curran
Elsevier
+1 215 239 3666
m.curran@elsevier.com