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University Students Intend to Eat Better but Lack Coping Self-Efficacy and Knowledge of Dietary Recommendations

  • June I. Matthews
    Affiliations
    Division of Food and Nutritional Sciences, Brescia University College, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada
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  • Lisa Doerr
    Affiliations
    Division of Food and Nutritional Sciences, Brescia University College, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada
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  • Paula D.N. Dworatzek
    Correspondence
    Address for correspondence: Paula D. N. Dworatzek, PhD, RD, Division of Food and Nutritional Sciences, Brescia University College, Western University, 1285 Western Rd, London, Ontario N6G 1H2, Canada; Phone: (519) 432-8353, ext 28020
    Affiliations
    Division of Food and Nutritional Sciences, Brescia University College, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada

    Schulich Interfaculty Program in Public Health, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada
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Published:September 27, 2015DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jneb.2015.08.005

      Abstract

      Objective

      To assess university students’ knowledge, intentions, and coping self-efficacy related to dietary recommendations.

      Design

      The study used a cross-sectional online survey.

      Setting

      Large university campus.

      Participants

      Students (n = 6,638; 22% response).

      Variables Measured

      Self-efficacy and intentions were measured using 11-point scales. Students’ perceived dietary recommendations were evaluated as correct or incorrect.

      Analysis

      Categorical variables were analyzed using chi-square and continuous variables by t tests or ANOVAs. Significance was set at P ≤ .05 and multiple comparisons at P ≤ .01.

      Results

      Respondents believed that they need fewer vegetables and fruit and more milk or alternatives servings/d than recommended; eg, males aged ≥ 19 years perceived milk or alternatives recommendations to be 4.3 ± 2.1 servings/d, significantly more than the 2 servings/d recommended (P < .001). Students in health sciences or with a food or nutrition course were significantly more likely to claim that they met recommendations (eg, 56% with vs 47% without a food or nutrition course for vegetables and fruit; P < .001); however, they were no more likely to identify them correctly. Males aged < 19 years had higher coping self-efficacy than females aged < 19 years to consume vegetables (68.3 ± 24.2 vs 64.0 ± 24.7; P < .01) and avoid high-calorie foods and beverages (HCFB) (56.2 ± 27.2 vs 49.0 ± 25.2; P < .01) when under stress; however, they had significantly lower intentions to consume vegetables (72.1 ± 24.5 vs 80.9 ± 20.3; P < .01) and avoid HCFB (60.5 ± 30.3 vs 77.7 ± 22.8; P < .01).

      Conclusions and Implications

      Students do not have adequate knowledge of age- and sex-specific food guide recommendations. Simpler food guide recommendations or age- and sex-targeted campaigns may enhance knowledge. Students intend to consume more vegetables and less HCFB; however, they have low coping self-efficacy, all of which could be targeted in nutrition interventions.

      Key Words

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