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Nutritional imbalances among adults are currently being recognized, particularly among those in their early 20s. Previous studies suggest that this problem might be related to adult picky eating (PE) behaviors. It has been taken for granted that university students majoring in food and nutrition, as prospective nutrition professionals, have already developed well-balanced dietary habits. However, this predisposition seems to be no longer entirely valid.
This pilot study aimed to explore the potential problem of PE among university students majoring in food and nutrition.
Study Design, Setting, Participants
The study included a total of 87 South Korean students majoring in food and nutrition. The Self-Designed Food Bridge Program was applied to identify the underlying causes of PE and examine the possibility of overcoming it. The program included planning and practicing step-wise exposures to target foods that were the subject of PE.
Descriptive statistics were calculated, and distributive differences between the success and failure groups in the program were analyzed using a chi-square test.
Vegetables were the most commonly disliked foods (74.7%). About 46% of all students mentioned negative experiences as a reason for food dislikes. Almost half (45%) of these negative experiences were due to external coercion: forced eating (30%) and vomiting after forced eating (15%). About 66% of the students achieved relatively positive results in overcoming PE. The proportion of failures tended to be higher when the reasons for food dislike included negative experiences.
The results imply that students majoring in food and nutrition can be subject to PE. Despite some limitations, this study is meaningful in that it raises concerns over the potential problem of PE and its treatment among prospective nutrition professionals. The study is also expected to serve as a basis for further research on adult PE.