Although rapid urbanization is often considered as one of the most important drivers for changing dietary patterns, little attention has been paid to rural areas despite the profound transformation they have undergone. Using longitudinal data from the China Health and Nutrition Survey (CHNS) for the period from 2004 to 2011, this study seeks to better understand the relationship between the urbanization of rural areas and dietary transition, with the focus on nutrition intake and dietary quality. Our results suggest that with increasing urbanization, rural residents tend to have on average lower calorie intakes but higher dietary quality. Specifically, increasing urbanization consistently reduces carbohydrate consumption and reduces fat consumption after a turning point; protein consumption first decreases and then increases after the turning point with increasing urbanization. Urbanization shows a significant and positive effect on the Healthy Eating Index (HEI). In addition to sociodemographic changes, we find that changing consumer preferences and knowledge serve as important determinants in explaining the dietary transition in rural China from 2004 to 2011. In our study, urbanization appears to positively affect rural residents’ healthy food preferences and dietary knowledge. This study is a first attempt for better understanding the nutrition transition resulting from accelerating urbanization in rural China; several limitations and areas for future research have been highlighted.
urbanization dietary transition calorie intake dietary quality rural China