The importance of habits in eating behaviour. An overview and recommendations for future research.


van't Riet J, Sijtsema SJ, Dagevos H, De Bruijn GJ.

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There is ample evidence to suggest that a significant part of daily eating behaviours consists of habits. In line with this, the concept of habit is increasingly incorporated into studies investigating the behavioural and psychosocial determinants of food choice, yielding evidence that habit is one of the most powerful predictors of eating behaviour. Research shows that habitual behaviour is fundamentally different from non-habitual behaviour: when behaviour is habitual, people require little information to make decisions, intentions are poor predictors of behaviour, and behaviour is triggered by situational cues. These insights have vast implications for research in the food domain that are only just beginning to be addressed. Also, theorizing on habits has important implications for behaviour change interventions, yet few interventions that are based on habit theory have been tested in a food context. The present article provides an overview of habit research and discusses possibilities to increase our knowledge of the role of habits in eating behaviour. It is shown that interventions targeting habitual behaviour can try to (i) change the situation that triggers the habitual behaviour, (ii) promote or inhibit the habitual response and (iii) change relevant contingencies. These insights can act as a starting point for future intervention research.