Eating competence is an attitudinal and behavioral concept, based on The Satter Eating Competence Model. In adults, it has been shown to be associated with a higher quality of diet. Eating competence or its association with the quality of diet has not been studied in adolescents. The aim of the current study was to explore the utility of using a preliminary Finnish translation of the ecSI 2.0 for evaluating presumed eating competence and its association with food selection, meal patterns and related psychobehavioral factors in 10-17 year old adolescents. Altogether 976 10-17 years old Finnish adolescents filled in the study questionnaire. When exploring the construct validity of ecSI 2.0, the confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) indicated acceptable model fit and all four components of the ecSI 2.0 (eating attitudes, food acceptance, internal regulation of food intake, management of eating context) correlated with each other and were internally consistent. Over half (58%) of the adolescents scored 32 or higher and were thus classified as presumably eating competent (pEC). Eating competence was associated with greater meal frequency, more frequent consumption of vegetables and fruits, and more health-promoting family eating patterns. In addition the pEC, adolescents more often perceived their body size as appropriate, had less often tried to lose weight and had a higher self-esteem and a stronger sense of coherence than the not pEC ones. Family eating patterns and self-esteem were the main underlying factors of eating competence. In conclusion, this preliminary study suggests eating competence could be a useful concept to characterize eating patterns and related behaviors and attitudes in adolescents. However, these preliminary findings need to be confirmed in further studies with an instrument fully validated for this age group.
Keywords: adolescents; body weight; eating competence; eating patterns; self-esteem; sense of coherence.