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Can J Public Health. 2005 Jul-Aug;96 Suppl 3:S15-9, S16-21.

Perceptions of healthy eating: state of knowledge and research gaps.

[Article in English, French]

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  • 1Institut national de santé publique du Quebec, Montréal.


To effectively promote and support healthy eating among Canadians, there needs to be a better understanding of the factors that influence eating behaviours. Perceptions of healthy eating can be considered as one of the many factors influencing people's eating habits. For this review, "perceptions of healthy eating" are defined as the public's and health professionals' meanings, understandings, views, attitudes and beliefs about healthy eating, eating for health, and healthy foods. This article's aim is to review and summarize the literature on the perceptions of healthy eating and to identify the current state of knowledge and key knowledge gaps. Databases, the worldwide web, selected journals and reference lists were searched for relevant papers from the last 20 years. Reviewed articles suggest relative homogeneity in the perceptions of healthy eating despite the studies being conducted in different countries and involving different age groups, sexes and socio-economic status. Perceptions of healthy eating were generally based on food choice. Fruits and vegetables were consistently recognized as part of healthy eating. Characteristics of food such as naturalness, and fat, sugar and salt contents were also important in people's perceptions of healthy eating. Concepts related to healthy eating, such as balance, variety and moderation, were often mentioned, but they were found to be polysemous, conveying multiple meanings. The main gap identified in this review concerns the lack of knowledge available on perceptions of healthy eating. More data are needed on the perceptions of healthy eating in general, on the influence on perceptions of messages from diverse sources such as food companies, and, most important, on the role of perceptions of healthy eating as a determinant of food choice.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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