Understanding Drivers of Dietary Behavior before and during Pregnancy in Industrialized Countries

Author(s):
L. Malek, W. Umberger, S. Zhou, M. Makrides

A comprehensive understanding of the factors influencing women’s dietary choices is central to motivating positive dietary behavior before, during and after pregnancy. Findings are synthesized from 34 studies which assessed modifiable individual and environmental factors influencing dietary behavior during preconception and pregnancy. Influencing factors included perceptions regarding benefits, risks and need; psychological factors; self-efficacy and control-beliefs; nutrition knowledge; financial constraints; social environment and perceived social pressure; healthcare providers (HCP); and the food environment. Studies consistently found that the key factors influencing positive dietary behavior were women’s desire to optimise maternal and fetal health and advice received from HCPs. HCPs are in a unique position to encourage healthier choices at a time when women are strongly motivated to make positive change. Therefore, strategies targeting the education of HCPs to ensure they have the knowledge and resources to support women to act on evidence-based dietary recommendations are of key importance. Other strategies include using persuasive communication methods to aid in educating and influencing young women and the wider community; providing pregnant women with automated daily feedback regarding their adherence with dietary recommendations; and changing the food environment to make healthy choices easier. A collaborative, multidisciplinary approach is required to further develop, test and implement the suggested strategies which have the potential to improve maternal and child nutrition beyond the immediate prenatal period.

Source: Bhutta ZA, Makrides M, Prentice AM (eds): Health and Nutrition in Adolescents and Young Women: Preparing for the Next Generation. Nestlé Nutr Inst Workshop Ser, vol 80, pp 117–140,(DOI: 10.1159/000360356) Nestec Ltd., Vevey/S. Karger AG., Basel, © 2015