Dining hall intervention helped college students choose healthier options

Encouraging fruit, vegetable, and water intake led to smarter choices among students, according to a new study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior

Philadelphia, PA, June 7, 2017

As students transition from high school to college, they enter a critical period for weight gain. Although eating in a buffet-style dining hall offers freedom and flexibility in food choice, many students cite the abundance of food available as a cause for weight gain. As most college students’ diets are low in fruits and vegetables and high in calories, sugar, fat, and sodium, researchers from the University of Toronto and Memorial University of Newfoundland created a cross-sectional study to examine whether messaging encouraging fruit, vegetable, and water intake could influence the habits of university students.

“Our labeling, focused on beverages and fruits and vegetables, may have been useful to decrease students’ consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and increase consumption of water, fruits, and vegetables,” said lead author Mary Scourboutakos, PhD, post-doctoral researcher at the University of Toronto.

The study was conducted in a dining center on the University of Toronto campus that offered a wide variety of entrees and soups, featured a salad and fruit bar, and had sides, desserts, and 19 beverage options available daily. The first part of the intervention encouraged students to choose water as their beverage by using physical activity calorie equivalent (PACE) labeling, which illustrated the minutes of jogging required to burn the calories in the different beverages offered. In the second part of the intervention, posters were hung in strategically selected locations to promote fruit and vegetable consumption. The posters were placed in attention-grabbing places to maximize exposure to the intervention.

Data were collected in-person on six events before, and six events after the intervention; inventory data were used as a secondary source. Between 368 and 510 students visited the dining hall for each dinner when data were collected, filling 8,570 beverages cups and taking 3,668 and 954 trips to the salad bar and fruit bar, respectively. After the interventions, sugar-sweetened beverage consumption was reduced and fruit and vegetable intake was increased.

“We found a significant increase in students drinking water before versus after the intervention, with 43% choosing water before and 54% doing so after,” Scourboutakos said. “Likewise, trips to the fruit bar increased by six percent and trips to the salad bar increased by 12%.”

These results from a university dining hall setting are promising, particularly regarding the PACE labeling. Interventions to promote increased fruit, vegetable, and water consumption should be repeated in different settings to determine if similarly successful results can be attained.

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Notes for editors
The article is “Testing a Beverage and Fruit/Vegetable Education Intervention in a University Dining Hall,” by Mary J. Scourboutakos, PhD; Catherine L. Mah, MD, PhD; Sarah A. Murphy; Frank N. Mazza; Nathanael Barrett; Bill McFadden; and Mary R. L'AbbĂ© (http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jneb.2017.02.003). It is published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, volume 49, issue 6 (June 2017) by Elsevier.

Full text of the article is available to credentialed journalists upon request; contact Eileen Leahy at +1 732-238-3628 or jnebmedia@elsevier.com to obtain copies. To schedule an interview with the authors, please contact Mary Scourboutakos, PhD, Post-Doctoral Research Associate, University of Toronto, at +1 647-232-7658 or maryscourboutakos@gmail.com.

An audio podcast featuring an interview with Mary Scourboutakos 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 (www.jneb.org)
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.

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.

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