Understanding drivers of dietary behavior before and during pregnancy in industrialized countries

Lenka Malek, Wendy Umberger, Shao Jia Zhou, Maria Makrides

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


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 (HCPs), and the food environment. Studies consistently found that the key factors influencing positive dietary behavior were women's desire to optimize 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-140
Number of pages24
JournalNestle Nutrition Institute Workshop Series
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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