Eating routines. Embedded, value based, modifiable, and reflective

Appetite. 2009 Feb;52(1):127-36. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2008.09.003. Epub 2008 Sep 12.


Eating routines are a compelling issue because recurring eating behaviors influence nutrition and health. As non-traditional and individualized eating patterns have become more common, new ways of thinking about routine eating practices are needed. This study sought to gain conceptual understanding of working adults' eating routines. Forty-two purposively sampled US adults reported food intake and contextual details about eating episodes in qualitative 24-h dietary recalls conducted over 7 consecutive days. Using the constant comparative method, researchers analyzed interview transcripts for recurrent ways of eating that were either explicitly reported by study participants as "routines" or emergent in the data. Participants' eating routines included repetition in food consumption as well as eating context, and also involved sequences of eating episodes. Eating routines were embedded in daily schedules for work, family, and recreation. Participants maintained purposeful routines that helped balance tension between demands and values, but they modified routines as circumstances changed. Participants monitored and reflected upon their eating practices and tended to assess their practices in light of their personal identities. These findings provide conceptual insights for food choice researchers and present a perspective from which practitioners who work with individuals seeking to adopt healthful eating practices might usefully approach their tasks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Adult
  • Beverages
  • Diet Records
  • Eating*
  • Female
  • Food Preferences
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Processes
  • Social Environment
  • Time Factors