Morehead State University

Poster Title

External Factors Influencing College Students' Food Choices When Eating Out

Institution

Morehead State University

Abstract

The effects of diet on health status are well documented. College students represent a population vulnerable to poor eating habits. Adjustment to college life introduces difficult food choices. Economic strains, convenience, and individual preferences influence students' meal decisions. This study assessed external factors that influence college students' food choices when eating out. Forty-four junior and senior students completed a computer based food frequency questionnaire and survey specific to food choice. This sample was assumed to have a basic level of nutritional knowledge based on the required curriculum courses and content completed by each student. The sample included 68 percent of students living at or below poverty level. Nutritional intake was below USDA daily recommendations for all food groups and half of the sample consumed more than twice the USDA recommendations for sodium. When asked to prioritize five reasons for selecting where to eat out, the participants selected cost as first priority, taste second, sociality and healthy options almost equal in priority. On average, students ate out three to four times a week with a mean expenditure of $6.00 per meal. When eating out the overwhelming majority of students selected fast food restaurants. Most of the restaurants available on or close to campus were fast food restaurants with combination meals priced under $6.00. Fast food combination meals were high in calories, fat, sodium, and sugar. Data from this study will be used to guide preventative health interventions targeted towards this population.

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External Factors Influencing College Students' Food Choices When Eating Out

The effects of diet on health status are well documented. College students represent a population vulnerable to poor eating habits. Adjustment to college life introduces difficult food choices. Economic strains, convenience, and individual preferences influence students' meal decisions. This study assessed external factors that influence college students' food choices when eating out. Forty-four junior and senior students completed a computer based food frequency questionnaire and survey specific to food choice. This sample was assumed to have a basic level of nutritional knowledge based on the required curriculum courses and content completed by each student. The sample included 68 percent of students living at or below poverty level. Nutritional intake was below USDA daily recommendations for all food groups and half of the sample consumed more than twice the USDA recommendations for sodium. When asked to prioritize five reasons for selecting where to eat out, the participants selected cost as first priority, taste second, sociality and healthy options almost equal in priority. On average, students ate out three to four times a week with a mean expenditure of $6.00 per meal. When eating out the overwhelming majority of students selected fast food restaurants. Most of the restaurants available on or close to campus were fast food restaurants with combination meals priced under $6.00. Fast food combination meals were high in calories, fat, sodium, and sugar. Data from this study will be used to guide preventative health interventions targeted towards this population.