Research suggests that while capacities for self-regulation gradually improve during adolescence, eating habits become unhealthier. This study investigated whether there are age-related patterns in using self-regulation strategies (SRS) as well as in the self-reported dietary intake of fruit, vegetables, and unhealthy snacks. Moreover, we tested the strength of the relationship between different SRS (aimed at goal versus aimed at temptations) and dietary intake across different ages in adolescents. Methods: In total, 11,392 adolescents (49.5% boys, age range 10–17) from nine European countries took part at this study. Eating SRS, daily intake of fruit, vegetables, and unhealthy snacks were assessed. Results: Older adolescents had lower scores on self-regulation measures compared to younger ones, as well as lower intakes of fruit and vegetables and higher intakes of unhealthy snacks. The strength of the associations between strategies aimed at goal and unhealthy dietary intake, as well as between strategies aimed at temptation and healthy dietary intake, were generally small and/or insignificant. There were small age differences in the direction and strength of these patterns. Conclusion: The trends in SRS and dietary intake of fruit, vegetables and unhealthy snacks suggest that middle (13–15-years-old) but also older adolescents might benefit greatly from interventions focused on boosting eating SRS.
Keywords: adolescents, development, dietary intake, self-regulation strategies