College Students’ Perception of Dietary Terms Could Help Nutrition Education

Different perception of the terms meal, real meal, and snack, may be a tool for educators, according to a new study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior


Philadelphia, PA, March 8, 2017

College students represent an important group for nutrition educators, since the transition into adulthood brings increased independence and decision making, which can affect diet and health-related behaviors. Promoting nutritional health among young adults is important. Poor decisions regarding eating may lead to decreased diet quality and increased weight, which may result in long-term health issues. Therefore, researchers from the University of Hawaii and Brigham Young University set out to determine college students’ perception of the terms real meal, meal, and snack and how those perceptions might enable more effective nutrition education. The results of this study are published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

Students from two western U.S. universities in two states were recruited for the study. A pilot study, consisting of 20 participants, was conducted first and helped the researchers hone survey questions to ensure clarity. Then a survey was administered to 628 undergraduate students recruited via email, featuring 11 items measuring students' familiarity with the term real meal, perceived differences among the terms real meal, meal, and snack, and demographic characteristics.

Students perceived a difference between real meal and meal, with real meal being described as nutritious or healthy and reflecting recommendations such as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Meals, on the other hand, were described as anything to eat and food for survival. Snacks were regarded as small portions of food eaten to hold off hunger and commonly described as foods eaten between meals.

“Students’ perceptions relating to the words real meal, meal, and snack might allow nutrition educators another way to frame and promote healthful eating,” said Jinan Banna, PhD, RDN, lead author of the study. “By using the phrase real meal, educators may be able to promote eating in line with dietary guidelines.”

In education campaigns or clinical counseling, the term real meal could be an effective tool to encourage healthy eating habits. Likewise, the investigators suggest media-based intrapersonal approaches, such as email and text messaging, as useful ways to communicate. Because these media use short messages, using the term real meal could be a concise way to promote healthy activities.

More research is necessary to understand how differences in perception between the terms real meal and meal translate to food choice. However, the survey used in this study could be used again to understand perceptions among different groups, beyond college students, of varying life stages and socioeconomic status.

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Notes for editors
The article is “College Students’ Perceived Differences Between the Terms Real Meal, Meal, and Snack,” by Jinan Banna, PhD, RDN, Rickelle Richards, PhD, MPH, RDN, Lora Beth Brown, EdD, RDN (http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jneb.2016.11.001). It is published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, volume 49, issue 3 (March 2017) by Elsevier.

Full text of the article is available to credentialed journalists upon request; contact Eileen Leahy at +1 732-238-3628or jnebmedia@elsevier.com to obtain copies. To schedule an interview with the authors, please contact Jinan Banna, PhD, RDN; Department of Human Nutrition, Food, and Animal Sciences, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, Agricultural Sciences University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI, at jcbanna@hawaii.edu.

An audio podcast featuring an interview with Jinan Banna, PhD, RDN, and information specifically for journalists are located at www.jneb.org/content/podcast. Excerpts from the podcast may be reproduced by the media; contact Eileen Leahy to obtain permission.

About the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (JNEB), the official journal of the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB), is a refereed, scientific periodical that serves as a resource for all professionals with an interest in nutrition education and dietary/physical activity behaviors. The purpose of JNEB is to document and disseminate original research, emerging issues, and practices relevant to nutrition education and behavior worldwide and to promote healthy, sustainable food choices. It supports the society’s efforts to disseminate innovative nutrition education strategies, and communicate information on food, nutrition, and health issues to students, professionals, policy makers, targeted audiences, and the public. www.jneb.org

The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior features articles that provide new insights and useful findings related to nutrition education research, practice, and policy. The content areas of JNEB reflect the diverse interests of health, nutrition, education, Cooperative Extension, and other professionals working in areas related to nutrition education and behavior. As the Society's official journal, JNEB also includes occasional policy statements, issue perspectives, and member communications.

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Media contact
Eileen Leahy
Elsevier
+1 732-238-3628
jnebmedia@elsevier.com