Background Europe has a growing population of ethnic minority groups whose dietary behaviours are potentially of public health concern. To promote healthier diets, the factors driving dietary behaviours need to be understood. This review mapped the broad range of factors influencing dietary behaviour among ethnic minority groups living in Europe, in order to identify research gaps in the literature to guide future research. Methods A systematic mapping review was conducted (protocol registered with PROSPERO 2014: CRD42014013549). Nine databases were searched for quantitative and qualitative primary research published between 1999 and 2014. Ethnic minority groups were defined as immigrants/populations of immigrant background from low and middle income countries, population groups from former Eastern Bloc countries and minority indigenous populations. In synthesizing the findings, all factors were sorted and structured into emerging clusters according to how they were seen to relate to each other. Results Thirty-seven of 2965 studies met the inclusion criteria (n = 18 quantitative; n = 19 qualitative). Most studies were conducted in Northern Europe and were limited to specific European countries, and focused on a selected number of ethnic minority groups, predominantly among populations of South Asian origin. The 63 factors influencing dietary behaviour that emerged were sorted into seven clusters: social and cultural environment (16 factors), food beliefs and perceptions (11 factors), psychosocial (9 factors), social and material resources (5 factors), accessibility of food (10 factors), migration context (7 factors), and the body (5 factors). Conclusion This review identified a broad range of factors and clusters influencing dietary behaviour among ethnic minority groups. Gaps in the literature identified a need for researchers to explore the underlying mechanisms that shape dietary behaviours, which can be gleaned from more holistic, systems-based studies exploring relationships between factors and clusters. The dominance of studies exploring ‘differences’ between ethnic minority groups and the majority population in terms of the socio-cultural environment and food beliefs suggests a need for research exploring ‘similarities’. The evidence from this review will feed into developing a framework for the study of factors influencing dietary behaviours in ethnic minority groups in Europe.
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