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Keywords:

  • cohabitation;
  • couples;
  • food choice;
  • healthy eating;
  • qualitative

Abstract

Introduction and objectives  Although considered to be an important component of food choice, perceptions and practices regarding healthy eating vary between people and change over the life-course. The purpose of this paper is to examine integration and individuality in healthy eating meanings, values, and approaches of individuals in childless, dual earner couples.

Materials and methods  Fourteen participants (from seven couples) were recruited using notices and snowball sampling. Food journals and individual interviews were used to explore the nature of and negotiations between partners’ healthy eating values and approaches. Data were analysed through iterative procedures that included coding, thematic analysis and memo writing.

Results  Participants presented individual healthy eating values and approaches based on their own experiences with food over time. Cohabitation resulted in a continuum of healthy eating negotiation outcomes, including congruent values and approaches, congruent values but divergent approaches, and divergent values and approaches. In combination with other salient factors, cohabitation provides an opportunity for improving healthy eating approaches.

Discussion  Cohabitation has the potential to lead to positive changes in healthy eating approaches. Practitioners need to tailor messages for clients’ specific needs and encourage change in the direction of the partner with the healthier eating approach.