College Students' Compliance with Food Guide Pyramid Recommendations

By McArthur, Laura; Rosenberg, Rachel I. et al. | Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, April 2002 | Go to article overview

College Students' Compliance with Food Guide Pyramid Recommendations


McArthur, Laura, Rosenberg, Rachel I., Grady, Frances M., Howard, Alan B., Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences


SCHOLARSHIP

ABSTRACT

This study assessed dietary compliance among 192 college students (64 males and 128 females) with the recommended number of daily servings from the five food groups depicted on the Food Guide Pyramid. Only 33% of males and 21 % of females met the recommendations for all food groups. Additionally 57% of males and 53% of females complied with the recommendation for the grain/cereal group, 72% of males and 57% of females for the vegetable group, 82% of males and 71% of females for the fruit group, 82% of males and 87% of females for the dairy group, and 84% of males and 63% of females for the meat and meat alternates group. Students who lived on-campus, younger students, females, students who ate out infrequently, and students who rarely/never consumed high-fat foods and snacks showed the lowest compliance. Findings suggest a need for learning opportunities focusing on food selection, meal planning, and food preparation in the context of a total daily diet.

INTRODUCTION

Findings from epidemiological and clinical research suggest that consuming diets high in energy, total and saturated fat, and cholesterol and low in fiber increase the risk of coronary heart disease (Serra-Majem et al., 1995; Hu et al., 2000), stroke (Gillman et al., 1995), diabetes (Pick et al., 1996; Chandalia et al., 2000), hypertension (Karanja et al., 1999), and certain types of cancer (McPherson, Steel, and Dixon, 2000). In the United States, governmental and nongovernmental agencies have issued dietary guidelines to help consumers reduce the risk of these degenerative diseases since the 1970s. Nevertheless, the three leading causes of death among men and women in this country, coronary heart disease, some types of cancer, and stroke, are diet-- related (Suter, 2000).

The Food Guide Pyramid (FGP), issued jointly by the United States Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), is a public health nutrition education tool intended to help consumers select healthful daily diets. The Pyramid assigns foods to five food groups, identifies serving sizes, and recommends a range of servings from each food group to comprise a healthful daily diet. Accordingly, consumers are advised to eat six to eleven servings from the grain/cereal group, three to five servings from the vegetable group, two to four servings from the fruit group, two to three servings from the dairy group, and two to three servings from the meat and meat alternates group. The ranges in the number of recommended servings from each group reflect the differing caloric and nutrient needs of individuals based on their lifestyle and stage of the life cycle. The peak of the Pyramid features a variety of sweets, fats, and oils that should be consumed in moderation. The assignment of foods to food groups, the recommended number of daily servings from each group, and the arrangement of the food groups in the shape of a pyramid convey the messages of dietary diversity, proportionality, and moderation, respectively (Welsh, Davis, and Shaw, 1992).

College students comprise a group whose dietary practices and nutritional status are of concern to nutrition professionals and family and consumer sciences specialists (Marietta et al., 1999; Binger, 1999). These concerns are based on research that characterizes the diets of these young adults as low in energy, fiber, calcium, iron, vitamin A, and carotenoids, and high in fat (Huang et al., 1994; Hertzler, Webb, and Frary, 1995; Schuette, Song, and Hoerr, 1996; Walter and Soliah, 1997). These findings reflect poor food choices and suggest a need among college students for more nutrition education interventions about healthful eating. For example, in a study assessing the dietary patterns of 2,489 college students, Schuette and coworkers (1996) found that 33% of their sample had not consumed any fruit or fruit juice on the previous day and 10% had not consumed any dairy foods.

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