Food choices, perceptions of healthiness, and eating motives of self-identified followers of a low-carbohydrate diet

  • Piia Jallinoja National Consumer Research Centre
  • Mari Niva National Consumer Research Centre
  • Satu Helakorpi National Institute for Health and Welfare
  • Nina Kahma National Consumer Research Centre
Keywords: low-carbohydrate diet, food choices, fats, carbohydrates, motives, perceptions, health risks, weight management, pleasure


Background: Low-carbohydrate (LC) diets have gained substantial media coverage in many Western countries. Little is, however, known about the characteristics of their followers.

Objective: The article analyses how those who report following an LC diet differ from the rest of the population in their background, food choices, weight reduction status, as well as food-related perceptions and motives. The data are a part of the Health Behaviour and Health among the Finnish Adult Population survey collected in spring 2012 (n=2,601), covering 15- to 64-year-old Finns.

Results: Seven per cent of the respondents identified themselves as followers of the LC diet. Gender and education were not associated with following an LC diet. The youngest respondents were the least likely to follow such a diet. The LC diet group preferred butter but also vegetables more commonly than the other respondents and were less likely to use vegetable bread spreads. The followers of the LC diet and the other respondents agreed about the healthiness of whole grain, vegetable oils, vegetables, and fruits and berries, and of the harmfulness of white wheat. Compared to the other respondents, the LC diet group was less likely to regard eating vegetable/low-fat products as important, more likely to regard eating healthy carbohydrates, and the health and weight-managing aspects of foods, as important and placed less value on sociability and pleasures connected to food. The results showed varying food choices among the followers of the LC diet: some even reported that they were not avoiding carbohydrates, sugars, and white wheat in their diet.

Conclusions: Planners of nutrition policies should follow-up on new diets as they emerge and explore the food choices and motives of their followers and how these diets affect the food choices of the whole population.

Keywords: low-carbohydrate diet; food choices; fats; carbohydrates; motives; perceptions; health risks; weight management; pleasure

(Published: 4 December 2014)

Citation: Food & Nutrition Research 2014, 58: 23552 -

Responsible Editor: Agneta Yngve, Örebro University, Sweden.


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Author Biography

Piia Jallinoja, National Consumer Research Centre

Head of Research, National Consumer Research Centre;

Docent, University of Helsinki

How to Cite
Jallinoja P., Niva M., Helakorpi S., & Kahma N. (2014). Food choices, perceptions of healthiness, and eating motives of self-identified followers of a low-carbohydrate diet. Food & Nutrition Research.
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