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College Students Failing to Eat Fruits and Vegetables


Fruits and vegetables may not be on college students’ course schedules, but they are failing anyway. College students are also exceeding the recommended amount (30 grams) of fat per day, according to a new study by Oregon State University researchers.

College students get an “E” for eating habits

When the US Department of Agriculture released its 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, college students must have been snoozing. While the guidelines encourage people to “make half your plate fruits and vegetables,” the new study found that college students are not even eating one serving per day.

Investigators surveyed 582 college students, most of whom were attending their first year of college, about their eating habits. Male students admitted to eating about five servings per week of fruits and vegetables, while females said they ate four.

Female students did fare better than their male counterparts, however, when it came to fat consumption and reading food labels. Women also skipped fewer meals and ate in the college dining halls more often than did men, although females did not get as much fiber.

Why are college students failing to follow a healthy diet? One of the study’s authors, Brad Cardinal, professor of exercise and sport science at Oregon State University, pointed out that “”we are not teaching our youth how to be self-sustaining,” noting that nutrition and home economics classes are nearly nonexistent in the K-12 curriculum. “There is a fundamental lack of understanding on how to eat well in a very broad sense," he said in a University news release.

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The Oregon survey found that students ate at least one fast food meal each week and also tended to eat out a lot. Other research has shown that people who prepare their own food at home tend to have a healthier diet and consumer fewer calories.

Although many college students do not live at home, there are tips they can follow to help them get a passing grade when it comes to eating fruits and vegetables away from home. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, has a website called Fruits and Vegetables Matter that offers ideas on how to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables in the diet.

Steps as easy as carrying dried fruit with them to class, choosing salads when eating out, and packing apples, pears, and other fresh fruit in their backpacks can prompt college students to get more fruit and vegetables in their diet.

Cardinal noted that “all the available research show that healthy habits and healthy kids can lead to better academic success.” But if college students don’t follow a nutritious diet, including eating enough fruits and vegetables, they will be failing to pass a critical course in life.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Oregon State University
US Department of Agriculture

Picture credit: Wikimedia Commons