Academic journal article College Student Journal

Gender Differences in Food Selections of Students at a Historically Black College and University (HBCU)

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Gender Differences in Food Selections of Students at a Historically Black College and University (HBCU)

Article excerpt

The lack of proper nutrition and physical activity can lead to increased weight gain and development of chronic diseases. Studies show a nationwide trend in the number of college aged individuals being classified as overweight according to BMI calculations. College is a time of transition from adolescence to adulthood where habits that began in childhood grow or cease to exist and new habits are formed. One habit tied to weight and development of chronic diseases is proper nutrition. The purpose of this research is to explore the eating patterns of college students attending a small, private historically black college and university (HBCU). A non-invasive food selection and preference assessment instrument was administered to 141 students. Chi-square analysis was done to compare the differences between gender on beverage choices, and daily food selection, and meal consumption. Significant differences were found between genders regarding milk consumption, water intake, fried potato consumption, and number of meals per day. Recommendations include targeted health communication to promote healthier food choices on campus. Further research is needed to explore why students select their diet choices.

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Lifestyle behaviors are directly associated with the leading causes of death in Americans. Heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are in the top ten causes of death; all are associated with nutrition and physical activity issues. The lack of proper nutrition and physical activity can lead to increased weight gain and development of chronic diseases. According to the National College Health Assessment, 39% of females and 27% of males surveyed were classified as overweight or obese according to BMI categories. Interestingly, almost 49% of the surveyed African American population were overweight or obese (American College Health Association, 2007). Gary et al (2006) reported baseline results of the College Health and Wellness Study, a cross-sectional study observing graduates of a HBCU. They found that approximately 30% of their study population (males and females) was overweight. These studies reflect a nationwide trend in the number of individuals being classified as overweight according to BMI calculations. BMI (Body Mass Index) is a measure of weight status used by calculating an individual's weight and height. The BMI classification for overweight is a BMI ranging from 25.0-29.9. Obese is a BMI of 30.0 or higher (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2008a).

These numbers leads one to discuss the reasoning behind this trend. College is a time of transition from adolescence to adulthood. During this time of reflection and growth, habits that began in childhood grow or cease to exist and new habits are formed. One habit tied to weight and development of chronic diseases is proper nutrition. Gary et al (2006) suggest addressing chronic disease prevention early in lifetime by looking at weight-related factors. This is the first time many students have been independent and may not practice healthy health habits. One study reported that the major barriers behind the lack of healthy eating are food preferences and time constraints (Matvienko, 2001). Anecdotal evidence places blame at the offerings available on campus. The purpose of this research is to explore the eating patterns of college students attending a small, private historically black college and university (HBCU). The focus of this paper is to explore the differences of food selection between genders.

Methodology

The location where this study took place was a private southeastern HBCU with approximately a 1500 student body population. Approximately 70% of students live on campus. The university has four major meal plans: board, five days a week, flex spending plan (seven days a week), and living off campus (lunch and dinner only). The university offers two dining establishments, the cafeteria which serves three meals a day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and a grill/fast food type venue. …

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