Gender differences in food choice: the contribution of health beliefs and dieting

Ann Behav Med. 2004 Apr;27(2):107-16. doi: 10.1207/s15324796abm2702_5.


Background: Gender differences in health behaviors have been reported in many studies but casual mechanisms have been neglected.

Purpose and methods: This study examines 4 food choice behaviors in a large sample of young adults from 23 countries and tests 2 possible explanatory mechanisms for the gender differences-women's greater likelihood of dieting and women's greater beliefs in the importance of healthy diets.

Results: Women were more likely than men to report avoiding high-fat foods, eating fruit and fiber, and limiting salt (to a lesser extent) in almost all of the 23 countries. They were also more likely to be dieting and attached greater importance to healthy eating. Dieting status explained around 22% of fiber choices, and 7% of fruit, but none of the gender difference in salt. Health beliefs explained around 40% of the differences in each of the dietary behaviors and together they explained almost 50%. Gender differences in food choices therefore appear to be partly attributable to women's greater weight control involvement and partly to their stronger beliefs in healthy eating.

Conclusion: Further research is needed to understand the additional factors that could promote men's participation in simple healthy eating practices.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Weight
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Dietary Fats
  • Eating / psychology*
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Fruit
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sex Factors*


  • Dietary Fats