Dietitians' perceptions of the healthiness of packaged food
Abstract The aim of this cross-sectional study was to determine the factors that influence Australian dietitians' perceptions of the healthiness of a sample of packaged foods. Participant dietitians (n = 120) rated the healthiness (1, less healthy to 10, more healthy), of seven packaged foods (bread, confectionary, breakfast cereal, flavoured yoghurt, curry, spread and crumble) based on information obtained from an ingredient list and nutrient information panel (NIP). Influences on each food's rating were explored via Likert-scale and open-response questions. There was variation in the healthiness rating of all foods, however, least so for confectionary and crumble. Bread (M = 7.39 ± 1.44) and confectionary (M = 1.33 ± 0.69) were rated the most and least healthy foods respectively. Crumble was rated significantly (p = 0.03) healthier by those with more experience (≥6 vs. ≤5 years). No other differences were detected. Highly reported influences on healthiness were sugar, total fat, sodium and saturated fat values and the ingredient list. Content analysis identified 13 categories of information not provided on the NIP that influenced participants' ratings. References to the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating food groups, micronutrients not listed as ingredients, comparisons to other foods, and fibre were most common among the sample. These results have implications for research or public health policy where expert opinion of the healthiness of food is used as a reference measure.
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