Relationship between Adolescents' and Their Friends' Eating Behaviors: Breakfast, Fruit, Vegetable, Whole-Grain, and Dairy Intake

Meg Bruening, Marla Eisenberg, Richard MacLehose, Marilyn S. Nanney, Mary Story, Dianne Neumark-Sztainer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations


We examined associations between adolescents' and their friends' healthy eating behaviors, specifically breakfast, fruit, vegetable, whole-grain, and dairy food intake as reported by both adolescents and their friends. Data for this study were drawn from EAT-2010 (Eating and Activity among Teens), a population-based study examining multilevel factors of eating, physical activity, and weight-related outcomes among adolescents (80% racial/ethnic minority) in Minneapolis/St Paul, MN, during the 2009-2010 academic year. In-class surveys were completed by 2,043 adolescents in 20 schools. Adolescents identified friends from a class roster; friends' survey data were then linked to each participant. Generalized estimating equation linear regression models were used to examine associations between adolescents' healthy eating behaviors and these behaviors from their friends (friend group and best friends), adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics. Significant positive associations were found for breakfast eating between adolescents and their friend groups and best friends (friend groups β=.26, P<0.001; best friends β=.19, P=0.004), as well was for whole-grain intake (friend groups β=.14, P<0.001; best friends β=.13, P=0.003) and dairy food intake (friend groups β=.08, P=0.014; best friends β=.09, P=0.002). Adolescents' and their best friends' vegetable intake were also significantly related (β=.09, P=0.038). No associations were seen among friends for fruit intake. Findings from our study suggest that adolescent friends exhibit similarities in healthy eating patterns. Registered dietitians and health professionals may consider developing strategies to engage friends to promote adolescents' healthy dietary behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1608-1613
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
FUNDING/SUPPORT The Eating and Activity among Teens (EAT-2010) study was supported by grant no. R01HL084064 from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute . A portion of M. Bruening's time was supported by National Institutes of Health grant no. R01 HL084064-01A2 . Oversight on the methods and analysis was supported by National Institutes of Health grant no. U01HD061940 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development . The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.


  • Adolescents
  • Breakfast
  • Friends
  • Fruits and vegetables


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