Research Article| Volume 49, ISSUE 3, P228-235.e1, March 2017

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College Students' Perceived Differences Between the Terms Real Meal, Meal, and Snack

Published:December 16, 2016DOI:



      To assess qualitatively and quantitatively college students' perceived differences between a real meal, meal, and snack.


      A descriptive study design was used to administer an 11-item online survey to college students.


      Two university campuses in the western US.


      Pilot testing was conducted with 20 students. The final survey was completed by 628 ethnically diverse students.

      Main Outcome Measures

      Students' perceptions of the terms real meal, meal, and snack.


      Three researchers coded the data independently, reconciled differences via conference calls, and agreed on a final coding scheme. Data were reevaluated based on the coding scheme. Means, frequencies, Pearson chi-square, and t test statistics were used.


      More than half of students perceived a difference between the terms real meal and meal. Most (97.6%) perceived a difference between the terms meal and snack. A marked difference in the way students defined these terms was evident, with a real meal deemed nutritious and healthy and meeting dietary recommendations, compared with meals, which were considered anything to eat.

      Conclusions and Implications

      These findings suggest that the term real meal may provide nutrition educators with a simple phrase to use in educational campaigns to promote healthful food intake among college students.

      Key Words

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