Eating behaviors and characteristics of healthy foods as perceived by college students



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The rate for obesity has increased steadily in the United States, and approximately two-thirds of U.S. adults over the age of 20 now face the challenge of being overweight or obese. Therefore, the need for dietary changes and eating healthy foods has become crucial. This study was designed to determine the healthy eating behavior of college students and the characteristics of healthy foods as report by college students at a university in the southwestern United States. Out of two hundred questionnaires distributed, one-hundred-sixty-one questionnaires were collected and analyzed in this study; the response rate was 80.5%. Every informant was asked which factors were important when they chose a healthy food. The results of this study validated the premise that healthy foods could be identified by classifying several features common to them, and that healthy food could then be defined using these characteristics: “low calorie food” (α=.869), “low greasy food & healthy drink” (α=.764), and “low cholesterol food “ (α=.734). In addition, the results showed the perception of healthy foods was significantly different based upon the demographic characteristics. But, this study found few differing factors for “healthy food choice” decisions as compared to other types of foods among this population of college students. Even though the correlation was not considered to be a strong one, there was a significantly positive correlation between knowledge of healthy foods and health concern (γ = 0.172, p = 0.029). This study helped to classify the characteristics of healthy food and, therefore, this information could be used to develop healthy menus in university foodservice settings and related marketplaces.