To plan or not to plan? The effect of information on planning dietary intake

Published on January 22 2017 – To promote healthy dietary intake, people can be instructed to formulate planning strategies regarding their diet. Such an instruction usually takes the form of a situation and an action, such as ‘when I am watching TV on my couch in the evening, I will eat an apple instead of a bag of chips’. Earlier research did not compare which type of instruction should be given, whilst earlier research also did not present evidence as to in which situations people will change their dietary intake. In a collaboration with Maastricht University and the University of Victoria (Canada), it was investigated in which situations and for which dietary intakes these plans most effective. This study was published in Appetite this month.

In this study, researchers had participants formulate plans where they would eat (un)healthier (when I come home from work, I will eat an apple instead of a chocolate bar) or where they would purchase (when I go to work, I will buy an apple at the railway station instead of a high caloric sandwich) or take with them. In the control condition, participants were provided with standard information about the health consequences of (un)healthy dietary intake. Results showed that participants who were instructed to make plans, regardless of which plans, decreased their snack intake in specific situations. In contrast, no effects were found on general snack intake, nor on fruit intake. Planning instructions therefore appear to be effective to decrease unhealthy dietary choices in specific situations, but do not appear to decrease general snack intake or increase fruit intake.

Learn more? 
De Bruijn, G.J., Nguyen, M. H., Rhodes, R. E., & van Osch, L. (2017).
Effects of preparatory and action planning instructions on situation-specific and general fruit and snack intake.Appetite108;161-170 doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2016.09.016.

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Published on 19-10-2016