Gender differences in food choice: the contribution of health beliefs and dieting.
Gender differences in health behaviors have been reported in many studies but casual mechanisms have been neglected. 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. 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. Further research is needed to understand the additional factors that could promote men's participation in simple healthy eating practices.