This study aimed to develop a healthy eating motivation score and to determine if dietary, lifestyle and activity behaviours vary across levels of motivation to eat a healthy diet with a view to informing health promotion interventions.
A cross-sectional survey of food intake, physical activity, lifestyles and food choice attitudes was conducted in a nationally representative sample of 1262 adults in the Republic of Ireland aged 18 years and over.
Increasing score for health motivation was significantly and positively related to healthy eating and exercise. Women, increasing age, normal BMI, regular exercise and increasing intakes of fruit and vegetables were associated with a higher odds ratio (OR) for having a high healthy eating motivation score. However, despite a high motivation score only 31 % of consumers in the strong motivation group achieved the recommendations for daily fruit and vegetable consumption, while 57 % achieved the fat recommendation. A higher intake of calorie dense foods from the top shelf of the food pyramid and increased time spent watching T.V. was associated with a decreased OR for positive motivation towards healthy eating.
Healthy eating promotions directed at women and older adults should focus on supporting people’s motivations to attain a healthy diet by addressing issues such as dietary self-control and self-regulation. For men and younger adults, healthy eating promotions will need to address the issues underlying their weak attitudes towards healthy eating.