British Journal of Nutrition

Full Papers

Dietary Surveys and Nutritional Epidemiology

Classification of main meal patterns – a latent class approach

Wei C. Wanga1 c1, Anthony Worsleya1 and Victoria Hodgsona2

a1 School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University, 221 Burwood Highway, Burwood, VIC 3125, Australia

a2 The Clever Stuff Market Research Private Limited, Sydney Australia, Suite 107, 59 Marlborough Street, Surry Hills, NSW 2010, Australia


Relatively little examination of the meals that are prepared in households has been conducted, despite their well-defined properties and widespread community interest in their preparation. The purpose of the present study was to identify the patterns of main meal preparation among Australian adult household meal preparers aged 44 years and younger and 45 years and over, and the relationships between these patterns and likely socio-demographic and psychological predictors. An online cross-sectional survey was conducted by Meat and Livestock Australia among a representative sample of people aged 18–65 years in Australia in 2011. A total of 1076 usable questionnaires were obtained, which included categorical information about the main meal dishes that participants had prepared during the previous 6 months along with demographic information, the presence or absence of children at home, confidence in seasonal food knowledge and personal values. Latent class analysis was applied and four types of usage patterns of thirty-three popular dishes were identified for both age groups, namely, high variety, moderate variety, high protein but low beef and low variety. The meal patterns were associated differentially with the covariates between the age groups. For example, younger women were more likely to prepare a high or moderate variety of meals than younger men, while younger people who had higher levels of education were more likely to prepare high-protein but low-beef meals. Moreover, young respondents with higher BMI were less likely to prepare meals with high protein but low beef content. Among the older age group, married people were more likely to prepare a high or moderate variety of meals than people without partners. Older people who held strong universalist values were more likely to prepare a wide variety of meals with high protein but low beef content. For both age groups, people who had children living at home and those with better seasonal food knowledge were more likely to prepare a high variety of dishes. The identification of classes of meal users would enable health communication to be tailored to improve meal patterns. Moreover, the concept of meals may be useful for health promotion, because people may find it easier to change their consumption of meals rather than individual foods.

(Received March 16 2012)

(Revised July 24 2012)

(Accepted September 03 2012)

(Online publication November 19 2012)

Key Words:

  • Main meal dishes;
  • Demographics;
  • Food knowledge;
  • Personal values;
  • Latent class analysis;
  • Surveys;
  • Australia


c1 Corresponding author: W. C. Wang, fax +61 3 9244 6017, email


  Abbreviations: BLRT, bootstrap likelihood ratio test; LCA, latent class analysis; MLA, Meat and Livestock Australia