Adolescents’ attitudes, preferences and perceived behaviours regarding healthy eating and whole grains from a gender and health interest perspective

  • Anna Calvén Department of Food and Meal Science, Kristianstad University, Kristianstad, Sweden
  • Karin Jonsson Division of Food and Nutrition Science, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden
  • Karin Wendin Department of Food and Meal Science, Kristianstad University, Kristianstad, Sweden; and Department of Food Science, University of Copenhagen, Frederiksberg C, Denmark
  • Christel Larsson Department of Food and Nutrition, and Sport Science, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden
Keywords: whole grain, healthy diet, eating habits, youth, interest in health, gender


Background: A healthy diet is important not only for the growth and development of the human body but also for the prevention of chronic diseases. However, most Swedish adolescents do not follow dietary recommendations, especially the intake of whole grain is very low. To create targeted conditions for healthy food choices amongst adolescents, comprehensive knowledge of factors related to adolescents’ unhealthy and healthy eating is needed.

Objective: To investigate adolescents’ attitudes, preferences and perceived behaviours regarding healthy eating, with a specific focus on whole grains and to evaluate differences between genders and between adolescents with higher versus lower health interest.

Design: A total of 1,178 Swedish adolescents responded to a questionnaire about their attitudes, preferences and perceived behabviours towards healthy eating and whole grains, and their general interest in nutrition and health. Results of girls and boys were compared, as well as adolescents with a higher versus lower health interest.

Results: Displays information about healthy eating among adolescents and a comprehensive set of factors that may affect their ability to eat healthier. Overall, adolescents had a positive attitude towards food and health, but less than half felt that they managed to eat healthy. The consumption of different whole grain products was low, although the willingness to eat healthier and more whole grain was high. The most reported barrier to healthy eating, as well as increasing whole grain intake, was the unavailability of tasty healthy products, taste being even more important for adolescents with a low health interest than those with a high interest. Whole grain consumption and factors increasing the willingness of whole grain consumption were most prominent not only in adolescents with high health interest but also in girls compared with boys.

Conclusion: The results show good potential to improve dietary habits amongst adolescents. Taste and availability of healthy products were rated the most important, whilst knowledge about the products’ healthiness was rated the least important, especially amongst those with low health interest. By focusing on the attitudes and preferences of adolescents, the effectiveness may increase of initiatives to improve their dietary habits.


Download data is not yet available.


Nordic Council of Ministers Nordic Nutrition Recommendations 2012: integrating nutrition and physical activity. Nordic Nutrition Recommendations. Report No: 5. Copenhagen: Nordic Council of Ministers; 2014, p. 627. doi: 10.6027/Nord2014-002

World Health Organisation. Healthy diet. 2020. Available from: [cited 22 August 2022].

Institue for Health Metrics and Evaluation. Global Burden Disease Compare. 2019. Available from: [cited 22 July 2022].

Reynolds A, Mann J, Cummings J, Winter N, Mete E, Te Morenga L. Carbohydrate quality and human health: a series of systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Lancet 2019; 393(10170): 434–45. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31809-9

Aune D, Keum N, Giovannucci E, Fadnes LT, Boffetta, P, Greenwood DC, et al. Whole grain consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all cause and cause specific mortality: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. BMJ 2016; 353: i2716. doi: 10.1136/bmj.i2716

Sandvik P, Kihlberg I, Lindroos AK, Marklinder I, Nydahl M. Bread consumption patterns in a Swedish national dietary survey focusing particularly on whole-grain and rye bread. Food Nutr Res 2014; 58(1): 24024. doi: 10.3402/fnr.v58.24024

Swedish Food Agency. Riksmaten Ungdom del 2 – Näringsintag och näringsstatus. 2018. Available from: [cited 22 August 2022].

Meynier A, Chanson-Rollé A, Riou E. Main factors influencing whole grain consumption in children and adults – a narrative review. Nutrients 2020; 12(8): 2217. doi: 10.3390/nu12082217

Amcoff E, Edberg A, Barbieri HE, Lindroos AK, Nälsén C, Pearson M, et al. Riksmaten–vuxna 2010–11. Food-and nutrient intake in the Swedish adult population (Riksmaten–adults 2010–11). Uppsala, Sweden: Livsmedelsverket rapportserie; 2012. Available from: [cited 22 August 2021].

Keast DR, Rosen RA, Arndt EA, Marquart LF. Dietary modeling shows that substitution of whole-grain for refined-grain ingredients of foods commonly consumed by US children and teens can increase intake of whole grains. J Am Diet Assoc 2011; 111(9): 1322–8. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2011.06.008

Affenito SG, Thompson D, Dorazio A, Albertson AM, Loew A, Holschuh NM. Ready-to-eat cereal consumption and the School Breakfast Program: relationship to nutrient intake and weight. J Sch Health 2013; 83(1): 28–35. doi: 10.1111/j.1746-1561.2012.00744.x

Fuldkornspartnerskabet. n.d. The Danish whole grain partnership. Available from: [cited 22 June 2001].

Lourenço S, Hansen GL, Staerk B, Frank P, Petersen CT. The whole grain partnership – how a public–private partnership helped increase whole grain intake in Denmark. Cereal Foods World, 64(3), 1–9. doi: 10.1094/CFW-64-3-0027

Calvert S, Dempsey RC, Povey R. A qualitative study investigating food choices and perceived psychosocial influences on eating behaviours in secondary school students. Br Food J 2020; 122(4): 1027–39. doi: 10.1108/BFJ-07-2019-0575

Daly AN, O’Sullivan EJ, Kearney JM. Considerations for health and food choice in adolescents. Proc Nutr Soc 2022; 81: 75–86. doi: 10.1017/S0029665121003827

González-Gil EM, Martínez-Olivan B, Widhalm K, Lambrinou CP, Henauw de S, Gottrand F, et al. Healthy eating determinants and dietary patterns in European adolescents: the HELENA study. Child Adolesc Obes 2019; 2(1): 18–39. doi: 10.1080/2574254X.2019.1615361

Ragelienė T, Grønhøj A. The role of peers, siblings and social media for children’s healthy eating socialization: a mixed methods study. Food Qual Prefer 2021; 93: 104255. doi: 10.1016/j.foodqual.2021.104255

Kamar M, Evans C, Hugh-Jones S. Factors influencing adolescent whole grain intake: a theory-based qualitative study. Appetite. 2016; 101: 125–33. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2016.02.154

Diószegi J, Llanaj E, Ádány R. Genetic background of taste perception, taste preferences, and its nutritional implications: a systematic review. Front Genet 2019; 10: 1272. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2019.01272

Kowalkowska J, Lonnie M, Wadolowska L, Czarnocinska J, Jezewska-Zychowicz M, Babicz-Zielinska E. Health-and taste-related attitudes associated with dietary patterns in a representative sample of Polish girls and young women: a cross-sectional study (GEBaHealth Project). Nutrients 2018; 10(2): 254. doi: 10.3390/nu10020254

Podzimek Š, Dušková M, Broukal Z, Racz B, Starka L, Dušková J. The evolution of taste and perinatal programming of taste preferences. Physiol Res 2018; 67; S421–9. doi: 10.33549/physiolres.934026

Dana LM, Chapman K, Dixon H, Miller C, Neal B, Kelly B, et al. The relative importance of primary food choice factors among different consumer groups: a latent profile analysis. Food Qual Prefer 2021; 94: 104199. doi: 10.1016/j.foodqual.2021.104199

Qutteina Y, Hallez L, Mennes N, De Backer C, Smits T. What do adolescents see on social media? A diary study of food marketing images on social media. Front Psychol 2019; 10: 2637. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02637

Kelly B, Bosward R, Freeman B. Australian children’s exposure to, and engagement with, web-based marketing of food and drink brands: cross-sectional observational study. J Med Internet Res 2021; 23(7): e28144. doi: 10.2196/28144

Kucharczuk AJ, Oliver TL, Dowdell EB. Social media’s influence on adolescents’ food choices: a mixed studies systematic literature review. Appetite 2022; 168: 105765. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2021.105765

Pohjanheimo T, Luomala H, Tahvonen R. Finnish adolescents’ attitudes towards wholegrain bread and healthiness. J Sci Food Agric 2010; 90(9): 1538–44. doi: 10.1002/jsfa.3982

Larson NI, Neumark-Sztainer D, Story M, Burgess-Champoux T. Whole-grain intake correlates among adolescents and young adults: findings from Project EAT. J Am Dietetic Assoc 2010; 110(2): 230–7. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2009.10.034

WholeEUgrain. A European action on whole grain partnerships. 2022. Available from: [cited 22 August 2022].

Ares G. Methodological issues in cross-cultural sensory and consumer research. Food Qual Prefer 2018; 64: 253–63. doi: 10.1016/j.foodqual.2016.10.007

Engeset D, Hofoss D, Nilsson L, Olsen A, Tjønneland A, Skeie G. Dietary patterns and whole grain cereals in the Scandinavian countries – differences and similarities. The HELGA project. Public Health Nutr 2015; 18(5): 905–15. doi: 10.1017/S1368980014001104
How to Cite
Calvén A., Jonsson K., Wendin K., & Larsson C. (2023). Adolescents’ attitudes, preferences and perceived behaviours regarding healthy eating and whole grains from a gender and health interest perspective. Food & Nutrition Research, 67.
Original Articles