Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

Food on the College Campus


Detailed view of a red gummi bear.

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Surely, by the time our children reach college age, they have learned something about healthy eating – but the latest study doesn’t seem to support this notion.

To no one’s surprise,  the article title says: “College Students Not Eating Enough Fruits and Veggies” – no kidding!  In this study, researchers surveyed the eating habits of 582 mainly first-year college students and compared males vs. females healthy eating habits.

Here are the results:

  • Ø Male students have about five servings of fruits and vegetables a week; females had about four.  (The recommended amount is 5 a day
  • Ø On average, most were not eating even one serving a day.
  • Ø Females had a lower fiber intake; males had a higher fat intake.
  • Ø Females overall had better eating habits (reading labels, skipping fewer meals, eating in the dining halls more frequently).
  • Ø Both males and females were eating more than 30% of calories from fat.
  • Ø The students ate out a lot and consumed at least one fast food meal per week.

Some thoughts from the study authors:

“The larger, take –away message is that proper eating and nutrition is not integrated enough into our society”

“We are not teaching our youth how to be self-sustaining.  Home economics and nutrition classes have all but disappeared from our schools in the K-12 system.  There is a fundamental lack of understanding on how to eat well in a very broad sense.”

“Health is an area being neglected, yet all the available research shows that healthy habits and healthy kids can lead to better academic success”.

One author pointed to the current trend where health education is no longer required by many states due to recent budget cuts.

Some of my observations of my students:

  • Ø Most had never had a nutrition course before and most had no science background.
  • Ø They sometimes brought foods to class for lunch or snacks – guess what – all fast food and chips, etc.
  • Ø They seemed quite apathetic to food issues – i.e. safety of the food supply, food’s impact on the environment, food and health (although at this age, they think they will live forever and will never have health problems)
  • Ø The males mostly defended 16-ounce steaks and laughed when told that the recommended serving of a steak is about the size of a deck of cards.
  • Ø In one of my classes, they did food reports – their self-chosen topics were generally some sort of candy (Peeps, Gummy Bears, etc), some sort of beer (males), and I don’t remember anyone mentioning any food with any healthy value very often.  There could have been one or two in about 10 years of teaching the class.

In their defense,  the students often do not have easy access to healthy foods – they lack the money, time and often are at the mercy of the college’s food system.  When they can make their own food choices later in life, hopefully they will remember their nutrition class.

Kin-Kit Li, Rebecca Y. Concepcion, Hyo Lee, Bradley J. Cardinal, Vicki Ebbeck, Erica Woekel, R. Tucker Readdy. An Examination of Sex Differences in Relation to the Eating Habits and Nutrient Intakes of University Students. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 2011; DOI: 10.1016/j.jneb.2010.10.002

Oregon State University. “College students not eating enough fruits and veggies, study finds.” ScienceDaily, 19 Aug. 2011. Web. 23 Aug. 2011.

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8 thoughts on “Food on the College Campus

  1. Pingback: Healthy Foods Ydi « Healthfood Tips

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  6. What an interesting article. Majority of college students are not considering healthy eating habits. I totally agree with this, ““Health is an area being neglected, yet all the available research shows that healthy habits and healthy kids can lead to better academic success”.


  7. Thanks, Lisa. I will certainly check it out.


  8. A young college student at the University of Georgia has a website designed for college students, teaching them to cook. His name is Arthur King and he majoring in Food Industry Marketing & Administration. His philosophy is that any college student CAN cook a GOOD meal. His website is


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