Brief Report

Annals of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 47, Issue 2, pp 242-248

First online:

Why Do People High in Self-Control Eat More Healthily? Social Cognitions as Mediators

  • Nelli HankonenAffiliated withSocial Psychology Unit, Department of Social Research, University of HelsinkiNational Institute for Health and Welfare Email author 
  • , Marja KinnunenAffiliated withNational Institute for Health and Welfare
  • , Pilvikki AbsetzAffiliated withNational Institute for Health and Welfare
  • , Piia JallinojaAffiliated withNational Institute for Health and WelfareNational Consumer Research Centre

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Trait self-control and social cognitions both predict dietary behaviors, but whether self-control is associated with more beneficial diet-related cognitions, and the effect of self-control on diet mediated by them, has rarely been examined.


We hypothesized that the effect of self-control on healthy diet is explained by more proximal diet-related social cognitive factors.


Altogether, 854 military conscripts (age M = 20) completed questionnaires on trait self-control and social cognitive factors (self-efficacy, outcome expectations, risk perceptions, intentions and planning) upon entering the service and a food frequency questionnaire after 8 weeks.


Trait self-control was associated with more positive cognitions regarding healthy diet. The mediation hypothesis received support for fruit and vegetable but only partially for fast food consumption.


Individuals high in trait self-control eat more healthily because they have higher self-efficacy, more positive taste expectations, stronger intentions and more plans, compared to those low in self-control.


Self-control Personality Social cognitions The Health Action Process Approach Mediation Dietary behaviors