Document Type : Research Article (s)


1 Ph.D., Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Baylor University

2 M.S., Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Baylor University


Background: Studies that have evaluated executive functions and dietary behaviors in school-aged children have found that deficits in executive functions are correlated with greater intake of high-caloric-low-nutritional foods and snacks and lower consumption of fruits and vegetables. However, since these studies analyzed executive functioning as a unidimensional outcome variable, the correlations between dietary behaviors and specific domains of executive functioning were not evaluated. The objective of the present study was to assess the associations between dietary behaviors and three domains of executive functioning (i.e., inhibition, working memory, planning/initiation skills) in a sample of school-aged children.
Methods: In this cross-sectional study, one-hundred-two, 8th grade students from a public middle school in the United States (mean age = 13.91; SD = 0.51; 62.7% female) completed a demographic questionnaire, a self-report measure of executive functioning (Behavior rating inventory of executive function-BRIEF), and self-report measures of dietary behaviors (adolescent food habits checklist, diet subscale of the summary of diabetes self-care activities questionnaire). Their parents completed the parent version of the BRIEF. Pearson correlations and multiple linear regression analysis were conducted.
Results: After controlling demographic factors (e.g., gender, race/ethnicity, parent education), self-reported planning/initiation skills were associated with healthier eating habits (unstandardized estimate = -0.16; P < 0.01).
Conclusions: These findings underscore the need for research evaluating the efficacy of techniques like implementation intentions that target planning/initiation skills in order to increase the consumption of healthy foods in school-aged children.