Exploring the relationship between perceived barriers to healthy eating and dietary behaviours in European adults

M. G.M. Pinho*, J. D. Mackenbach, H. Charreire, J. M. Oppert, H. Bárdos, K. Glonti, H. Rutter, S. Compernolle, I. de Bourdeaudhuij, J. W.J. Beulens, J. Brug, J. Lakerveld

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Purpose: Dietary behaviours may be influenced by perceptions of barriers to healthy eating. Using data from a large cross-European study (N = 5900), we explored associations between various perceived barriers to healthy eating and dietary behaviours among adults from urban regions in five European countries and examined whether associations differed across regions and socio-demographic backgrounds. Methods: Frequency of consumption of fruit, vegetables, fish, fast food, sugar-sweetened beverages, sweets, breakfast and home-cooked meals were split by the median into higher and lower consumption. We tested associations between barriers (irregular working hours; giving up preferred foods; busy lifestyle; lack of willpower; price of healthy food; taste preferences of family and friends; lack of healthy options and unappealing foods) and dietary variables using multilevel logistic regression models. We explored whether associations differed by age, sex, education, urban region, weight status, household composition or employment. Results: Respondents who perceived any barrier were less likely to report higher consumption of healthier foods and more likely to report higher consumption of fast food. ‘Lack of willpower’, ‘time constraints’ and ‘taste preferences’ were most consistently associated with consumption. For example, those perceiving lack of willpower ate less fruit [odds ratio (OR) 0.57; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.50–0.64], and those with a busy lifestyle ate less vegetables (OR 0.54; 95% CI 0.47–0.62). Many associations differed in size, but not in direction, by region, sex, age and household composition. Conclusion: Perceived ‘lack of willpower’, ‘time constraints’ and ‘taste preferences’ were barriers most strongly related to dietary behaviours, but the association between various barriers and lower intake of fruit and vegetables was somewhat more pronounced among younger participants and women.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Journal of Nutrition
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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