To inform dietary interventions, it is important to understand antecedents of recommended (henceforth: healthy) dietary behaviors, beyond dietary beliefs and self-efficacy. We used the validated “Eating Identity Type Inventory” to assess the extent to which participants identified as healthy eaters, meat eaters, emotional eaters or picky eaters. We examined correlations between participants’ race/ethnicity and other socio-demographic characteristics and affinity with these eating identities, how affinity with these eating identities correlated with self-reports of dietary beliefs, self-efficacy, dietary behaviors and Body Mass Index (BMI), and how well affinity with these eating identities predicted self-reported dietary behaviors and BMI, as compared to self-reported dietary beliefs and self-efficacy.
In an online survey, a diverse sample of 340 Los Angeles County adults reported eating identities, dietary beliefs, and self-efficacy, dietary behaviors and BMI.
Pearson correlations revealed that identifying more as a healthy eater was positively associated with self-reports of being non-Hispanic White, non-Hispanic mixed race, older, and college-educated, while identifying more as a meat eater was positively associated with self-reports of being non-Hispanic Black, younger, and male (α = 0.05). Pearson correlations also showed that healthy eaters had more accurate dietary beliefs and self-efficacy, and emotional eaters had lower self-efficacy (α = 0.05). In linear regressions, identifying more as a healthy eater was associated with self-reporting healthier dietary behaviors and lower BMI, and identifying more as a meat eater and emotional eater was associated with reporting less healthy dietary behaviors and higher BMI, even after accounting for correlations with socio-demographics, dietary beliefs, and self-efficacy (α = 0.05).
Our findings highlight the importance of eating identities in understanding dietary behaviors and outcomes, with implications for dietary interventions.
The full study is available in Frontiers in Nutrition.