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College students get low grade on eating fruits and vegetables

BOOSTER SHOTS: Oddities, musings and news from the
health world

August 17, 2011|By Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • College students may not be eating as much as an apple a day, a study finds
College students may not be eating as much as an apple a day, a study finds (Photo credit: David Karp )

College students may be going heavy on the books, but they could be light on fruits and vegetables, a study finds. Many may not be eating even one serving a day.

Researchers surveyed 582 college students, most of them freshmen, to find out about their eating habits. As far as the fruits and vegetables were concerned, male students ate about five servings a week, while females consumed about four per week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines suggest about two to two and a half cups of fruit and about two and a half to three and a half cups of vegetables per day for this age group. Under the CDC guidelines, a cup of fruit equals one small apple or banana; a cup of vegetables would be 12 baby carrots.

Overall women had better eating habits than men--they skipped fewer meals, were more apt to read food labels, ate fast food less frequently, and ate in the dining halls more often. They consumed less fiber than men, however.

Men ate more fat than women, although both sexes consumed more than 30% of their calories from fat, a no-no according to the American Dietetic Assn.

Even after considering the meals the students skipped, researchers found they were not even getting one serving of fruits and vegetables per day on average.

"We are not teaching youth how to be self-sustaining," said study co-author Brad Cardinal in a news release. Cardinal, professor of exercise and sport science at Oregon State University in Corvallis, added, "Home economics and nutrition classes have all but disappeared from our schools in the K-12 system. There is a fundamental lack of understanding on how to eat well in a very broad sense."

The authors noted that it may take a multi-prong approach to improve college students' nutrition: "Some of the points of intervention include peers, classmates, dormitory management, on and off-campus eating establishments, and many other campus groups and organizations."

The study was released online in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

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