Gender differences in the consumption of meat, fruit and vegetables are similar in Finland and the Baltic countries.

Ritva Prättälä , Laura Paalanen , Daiga Grinberga , Ville Helasoja , Anu Kasmel , Janina Petkeviciene

 BACKGROUND: Women's diets are healthier than men's. Finnish women eat more fruits and vegetables but less meat than men. Gender differences may be larger in the Baltic countries, which represent Eastern European transition societies than in Finland, a society characterized by the Scandinavian welfare ideology and a high degree of gender equality. METHODS: The data are based on questionnaires to random samples of adults in Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The data provide a way of addressing gender differences at the turn of the century in the economically and culturally different countries. The purpose is to explore whether the consumption of foods classified as masculine or feminine-meat, fruits and vegetables-follow a similar gender pattern in Finland and the Baltic countries. RESULTS: Men ate meat more often while women ate fruits and vegetables. A high educational level was associated with frequent consumption of fruits and vegetables. Educational differences in the consumption of meat were few and inconsistent. The consumption of fruits and vegetables was more common in urban areas except in Finland. Gender differences were similar in all countries throughout age and educational groups and in rural and urban areas. CONCLUSION: The consistent association of gender and food and the similarity of gender patterning in population subgroups point to the stability of masculine versus feminine food habits. The similarity suggests that food habits contribute equally to the gender gap in health in the Baltic countries as they do in Finland.

Eur J Public Health. 2006 Dec 27