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Smart Choices for College Students


Dining hall intervention encourages fruit, vegetable and water consumption

Anyone who has gone off to college has heard of the ominous “Freshman 15”. Although average weight gain is questionable, it can’t be denied that the first year of college is a crucial period for weight gain for most underclassmen living on campus. Though collegiate food options have certainly improved over the years to offer a variety of nutritious options including salad and fruit bars, students cite the overwhelming availability of food as cause for additional pounds. In an effort to improve cafeteria eating habits, researchers from the University of Toronto and Memorial University of Newfoundland conducted a study to see whether nudging nutrition messages could increase fruit, vegetable and water intake.

The cross-sectional study, published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, took place on the University of Toronto Campus. Student choices were recorded on six occasions, before and after education and messaging were put in place; on each occasion between 368 and 510 students visited the dining hall. Physical Activity Calorie Equivalent (PACE) labeling, which illustrates the minutes of jogging required to burn the calories in different beverages offered, was hung to encourage students to choose water instead of sweetened beverages. Additionally, posters were hung in select prominent locations to promote fruit and vegetable consumption. The researchers found that after the PACE labeling was posted, water purchases increased by 11% and visits to the fruit and salad bars increased 6% and 12% respectively.

Making healthy choices away from home doesn’t have to give you the blues. Here are some other strategies for navigating the campus (or any!) cafeteria:

  1. Visit the salad bar often, but take caution with bacon, cheese and dressing which can add major calories
  2. Snag an apple for an afternoon snack
  3. When enjoying the occasional slice of pizza, keep portions small and opt for veggie toppings and sides

Some dorm staples to keep on hand for a quick breakfast or lunch include whole grain wraps (about 100 calories), your favorite nut butter and bananas- roll up and enjoy! Easy and satisfying! Try Dole’s spin with this Fruity Breakfast Burrito.

Bonus: Visiting the salad bar helps nourish gut bacteria, preparing to fend off food borne illness, helping to ensure a sick-free semester! 

Published September 1, 2017  


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