Nutr Res. 2023 Aug 4;118:137-145. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2023.07.011. Online ahead of print.
A diet high in quality is essential for prevention of chronic diseases. Specific healthy eating behaviors may modulate dietary intake. However, these behaviors have been seldomly studied, particularly in Puerto Rico (PR), a population with documented poor dietary quality and high burden of chronic diseases. This study aimed to document self-reported engagement in eating behaviors and examine their associations with intake of nutrients and diet quality. We hypothesized that greater engagement in healthy eating behavior would be associated with greater diet quality. This cross-sectional analysis used data from the PRADLAD study (adults aged 30-75 years residing in the San Juan, PR, area [n = 234]). Frequency (never, sometimes, often, always) of habitual eating behaviors was measured. Dietary intake was assessed with a food frequency questionnaire. Diet quality was measured with the Alternate Healthy Eating Index-2010. Statistical analyses included adjusted linear models. The most common behavior was “controlling intake of salt” (51.7%). Engaging “always” (vs. less frequently) in making healthier meals, reading nutrition facts labels, searching media for healthy eating information, counting calories, buying organic foods, eating a vegetarian diet, and controlling intake of salt, fat, carbohydrates/sugar, and portions were associated with higher Alternate Healthy Eating Index-2010 scores (P < .05). Controlling intakes of fats, carbohydrates/sugars, and portions “always” was associated with lower intakes of trans fats, added sugars, and total food (g), respectively (P < .05). Engagement in eating a vegetarian diet “always” was associated with higher intake of plant-based protein (P < .05). In conclusion, adults following several habitual eating behaviors had greater diet quality and a lower amount of unfavorable nutrients. Encouraging adherence to these behaviors may contribute to healthier dietary intake.