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Corey Williams
September 28, 2018

In a recent report that shocked absolutely no one, the American College Health Association found that 63 percent of college students are not eating enough fruits and vegetables.

Researchers Vinayak K. Nahar of Lincoln Memorial University, Manoj Sharma of Jackson State University and M. Allison Ford of the University of Mississippi set out to figure out how to improve students’ diets. The key? Easier access to healthy foods.

A total of 175 college students were surveyed to assess their willingness to change their diet by increasing their fruit and vegetable intake. They were asked to weigh advantages like improved energy, meal variety, and weight control against perceived disadvantages like being hungry, having less energy, and not enjoying meals.

Participants in the study suggested changes in campus cafeterias. Their ideas included adding vending machines that sell produce, increasing affordable options, increasing the variety of fruits offered, and improving the taste and variety of cafeteria meal choices.

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“Convincing college students it’s important to eat better is only half the battle,” said Philip Stephens, a second-year osteopathic medical student at LMU-DCOM who was involved in the study. “Getting students to actually change their behavior will mean making healthy foods easier to access and affordable for a college student’s budget.”

Basically, college campuses need to make healthy foods just as (or more) available as pizza and chicken nuggets.

The survey suggests that an emotional shift is paramount to sustaining a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Students must make a conscious decision to eat well, even when they’re not feeling their best. Some participants said tracking their diets through apps or journals could prove to be a beneficial practice.

No matter how they do it, it’s clear that improving students’ diets will positively affect their lives for years to come.

“The eating habits we have as adults were often established while in college,” Nahar said. “Enticing students to add more fruits and vegetables into their diets now is key, but we must then focus on making those changes permanent.”

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