Article Title

Improving Confidence to Eat Better Among Young Adults –– Gender Differences in 3-Month Results of the MENU GenY Online Intervention

Publication Date



nutrition, young adults


Background/Aims: Improving food choices requires both internal resources, particularly confidence in ability to change, and external challenges or temptations. Self-efficacy and social influence, especially through informal close relationships, play important roles in health behavior. We assessed dietary and self-efficacy changes related to dietary choices by gender and initial fruit and vegetable intake among young adults enrolled in a randomized online intervention trial to improve food choices.

Methods: Young adults, 21–30 years old, from integrated health systems in urban Michigan and rural Pennsylvania enrolled and were randomized into Arm 1 (control website), Arm 2 (tailored and age-targeted website) or Arm 3 (Arm 2 website + email coaching). Baseline and 3-month online surveys included questions assessing fruit and vegetable (F/V) intake, and confidence about eating healthy foods in a number of circumstances (e.g. when really hungry, tired, with friends). Repeated measures ANOVA and F-tests compared overall and groups by study arm, gender and baseline F/V intake.

Results: Of 1,390 (81% of baseline, 71% women) completing the 3-month survey, mean gain in F/V intake was 1.0 (SD: 1.4), 1.0 (SD: 1.5) and 1.2 (SD: 1.5) servings by Arms 1, 2 and 3, respectively; those with low (1 or fewer) F/V at baseline (n = 153) improved by 2+ servings, across arms, with no differences by gender. Greatest self-efficacy improvement, regardless of gender, was in eating well in front of friends (P < 0.0001), making good choices eating out (P < 0.0001) and eating healthy when depressed/in a bad mood (P < 0.0001); men also gained in self-efficacy to eat healthy around junk food (P < 0.001). The low baseline F/V group resembled men and gained self-efficacy to prepare healthy meals (P < 0.001) and avoid higher-fat foods.

Conclusion: Internal perceptions of self-efficacy across a number of social situations and internal conditions in both men and women corresponded to personal experience of working to eat more F/V. More self-confidence improvements occurred in those starting with lowest rates of healthy eating, and those who ultimately made the greatest gains in dietary change, regardless of gender.




June 28th, 2016


August 12th, 2016