Although many studies consider health and food, little is known about consumers' actual interpretation of healthy eating. This study aims to explore, operationalise, and test consumers' interpretation of healthy eating by using insights from construal level theory. In this exploratory research three consecutive studies were executed, applying focus group (n= 35) and two quasi-experimental studies with, respectively 97 and 235 respondents. Respondents appeared to use different levels for their judgment of food products' healthiness. Thinking about healthy eating can take place at a concrete representation level (e.g. " an apple contains vitamins" ), but also at an abstract representation level (e.g. " it depends how much you eat" ). The main yield of this paper is the coding scheme with exemplary phrasings used by consumers for different representations of healthy eating. This study shows that healthy eating does not always mean the same for different individuals, it depends at least partly on the representation level they are reasoning from. Both in academic reasoning and public health interventions health and healthy eating are usually discussed as universal and univocal concepts. However, this paper argues that healthy eating is not as clear-cut for consumers, and is not understood and interpreted identically by everybody. This paper suggests to take this insight into account in both future research and in the design of any communication message on healthy eating. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.
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