Yarar, Nadine, & Ulrich R. Orth (in press). Consumer lay theories on healthy nutrition: A Q methodology application in Germany. Appetite. (doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2017.08.026)

Abstract: Food is an important driver of individual health, and an important subject in public policy and health intervention research. Viewpoints on what constitutes healthy nutrition, however, are manifold and highly subjective in nature, suggesting there is no one-size-fits-all behavioral change intervention. This research explores fundamental lay theories regarding healthy nutrition with consumers in Germany. The study aimed at identifying and characterizing distinct groups of consumers based on similarities and differences in the lay theories individuals hold by means of Q methodology. Thirty German consumers ranked a Q set of 63 statements representing a vast spectrum of individual opinions and beliefs on healthy nutrition into a quasi-normal distribution. Factor analysis identified four major lay theories on healthy nutrition: (1) “Healthy is what tastes good, in moderation”, (2) “Healthy nutrition is expensive and inconvenient”, (3) “Healthy is everything that makes me slim and pretty”, and (4) “Only home-made, organic, and vegetarian food is healthy”. Consensus existed among the theories about the question of whom to trust regarding nutritional information and the low relevance of information from official sources. Disagreement existed concerning the overall importance of healthy nutrition in day-to-day lives and whether food healthiness is related to organic or conventional production methods. The findings underscore that specific consumer groups should be engaged separately when intervening in healthy nutrition issues. Implications for public policies and intervention strategies are discussed.

Nadine Yarar <nyarar@ae.uni-kiel.de> is with the Faculty of Agricultural and Nutritional Sciences, Christian Albrechts University, Kiel, Germany.

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