Skip main navigation

How to change dietary behaviour

Changing behaviours requires motivation and readiness. To change a dietary behaviour, everyone needs to be willing to make a change.
Where Do We Start
© Deakin University

Changing behaviours requires motivation and readiness. To change a dietary behaviour, whether it’s your own or someone else’s, everyone needs to be willing to make a change, be able to make the change and be ready to do so.

When making changes, it is helpful to identify the current state of motivation by using, for example, the Transtheoretical model of behavioural change.

Transtheoretical model of behavioural change graphic
Steps in transtheoretical change adapted from Pro-change Behavior Change Systems.

Establishing a starting point is essential to prepare a suitable strategy to move the behaviour in the right direction.

For example, if the individual is at the precontemplation stage and isn’t really ready for change, putting time and effort into working out strategies for change might be ineffective. However, we can still motivate ourselves and others by increasing our understanding of the topic.

Contemplation stage

At this stage, individuals are likely to be aware of the risks and benefits of making / or not making dietary changes and are considering their actions. Motivation and identification of barriers are particularly important to initiate the change.

Preparation stage

At this stage, people are usually developing their plans for behavioural change or may already be engaging in some form of change. Continuous support based on positive accountability is useful at this stage to further build capacity for change.

Action stage

Indicates growing confidence in the ability to change. However, this stage is susceptible to relapses. Realistic and applicable strategies for pre-empting and overcoming barriers are required. Also, an understanding that relapses provide opportunities for reflection and learning is essential.

Maintenance stage

Usually signifies increased confidence and self-efficacy. Relapses in behaviour are less likely than in the action stage. Applying the principle of behavioural change model to changes in diet, the maintenance stage is equivalent to life-long dietary behaviours. With this in mind, implementing a sustainable dietary change is particularly critical.

Changing behaviours takes time and effort; however, in almost all instances positive behavioural changes based on an individual’s needs, abilities and resources are achievable.

Your task

Using the transtheoretical model of change, identify your own state of readiness for change and the best approach.

© Deakin University
This article is from the free online

Food and Mood: Improving Mental Health Through Diet and Nutrition

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education