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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An exploration into women's understandings of nutritional health : towards a "commonsense" of healthy eating Hartford, Wendy Dawn


The purpose of this research was to explore how women put into practice their understanding of healthful eating when purchasing food. The primary research question was: How do women think about health, health risk and food in their grocery store point-of-purchase food selections? The food choice process is highly complex and understanding women's healthy food selections requires the consideration of the following: women's understandings of health in the context of the social environment, women's perceptions of personal health risk, women's perceptions of food, factors which influence everyday food decisions, such as cost and store location, and nutritional health education. According to the literature, research which considers how individuals make decisions about healthy food selection is limited. Participants were 16 women between the ages of 20 and 49 who selected foods that would benefit their health, who exercised regularly, had access to nutritional health information and a variety of food produce markets, were responsible for their own food purchases, and for whom cost was not an overriding concern. Analysis of the transcripts revealed four broad themes; blueprints, planning, practical application, and reflections on nutritional health education. In the context of this study, blueprint describes a cognitive framework which enabled each woman to simplify the complex decision process through classifying and categorizing a range of values associated with healthy food choice. The blueprint provided a foundation for planning for and the practical application of healthy food selection and purchasing. Collectively, the findings suggest nutritional health education policy and practice lacks information tools which take into account the high degree of variation that occurs in individuals' food choice processes. Furthermore, reaching individuals who do not know about healthful eating practices, in all probability, requires changes to the way that food is considered in the existing social environment which is not, as these findings and previous research suggest, conducive to healthful eating practices. Finally, to assist individuals with their healthful food practices it is necessary to explore ways to promote critical thinking skills which enable individuals to make properly informed decisions about which tools are best suited for their personal food decisions.

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