An investigation of food choice behaviour and dietary intake of children, teenagers and adults with food allergies

  • Isolde Sommer

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Food allergies in children, teenagers and adults are managed by eliminating the allergenic food from the diet. Healthcare professionals and policy makers have developed guidelines for the dietary management of food allergies, but as yet there has been no assessment of how individuals with food allergies are able to adapt their behaviour to them. In order to be able to improve the diet and nutrition of children, teenagers and adults with food allergies, and thereby to increase their quality of life, it needs to be understood which processes influence food choices and management of food and eating in this population, and how their actual diet is affected by the chronic condition.

This research consisted of four stages, the first three addressing food choice behaviour among age groups of children, teenagers and adults; the fourth stage evaluating the impact of food allergies on nutrient intakes of this population. A mixed-method approach has guided this research.

The findings indicate that food choice behaviour is mostly affected by food allergies in adults. This is probably because personal cognitive factors play a more dominant role during food choice decisions than during childhood and adolescence, where social influences are more prevalent. Adults reported a lack of satisfaction and joy from food, had difficulties sharing meals, and felt the need to organise their eating. Teenagers struggled to widen their palate, felt secure under parental protection, and expressed the wish to eat similar foods to their friends. Children showed highest engagement with foods if the mother displayed an authoritative parenting style. Although they appeared least affected by the allergic condition in the way they were choosing food, children have been shown to be the age group making most nutritional compromises. Protein, vitamin B12, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and iodine intakes were lower than among healthy age-matched children.

This research has provided a cross-sectional survey of food choice behaviour and dietary intake among food-allergic children, teenagers and adults with many implications for practice and future research. It is recommended that dietary management of food allergies should place emphasis on dietary variety and enjoyment aspects of eating as well as the importance of social relationships that are built around food. Additionally, regular evaluations of dietary intake should be conducted, in particular for children with a cow’s milk allergy or individuals with multiple food allergies.
Date of AwardMay 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorTara Dean (Supervisor), Carina Venter (Supervisor) & Heather MacKenzie (Supervisor)

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