Investigating Eating Habits using an Ecological Model for Healthy Behavior

23 Nov, 2018

This week, the first manuscript resulting from my European research project “CONSUMEHealth. Using consumer science to improve healthy eating habits” was published on journal Nutrients with the title: College Students and Eating Habits: A Study Using An Ecological Model for Healthy Behavior.

The article was included in the Special Issue on “Dietary Behaviours during Young Adulthood” and as the Guest Editor Melinda J. Hutchesson highlighted how young adults are on a weight gain trajectory this negative trend is mainly due to poor dietary behaviors, including low intake of fruit and vegetables and high intake of foods prepared outside the home. Young adulthood is also a transitional life stage including many significant changes, especially if a person starts going to college. The main aim of this special issue was to identify the factors influencing young adults eating habits, and what to do to intervene to improve them. 

The objective of my work was to explore the barriers and enablers of healthy eating behaviors among US college students, using focus groups that foster open discussion between a small number of participants. Using an adapted version of an Ecological Model, we developed a framework that included individual (intrapersonal), social (interpersonal), university environment (community settings), and students’ life factors as influences affecting eating habits.


Ecological Model of Factors influencing healthy eating behaviors of college students.

The Ecological Model can help university communities to gain more insights into how and why students make certain food choices, and support them in staying healthy. Colleges and dining halls on campuses should acknowledge their crucial role in guiding healthy eating behaviors, and be the first subjects to be interested in creating a healthy environment for the students. Unless they start understanding the reasons behind unhealthy eating behaviors of young adults, effective policies and managerial strategies to fight malnutrition. The next step of this research will include the collection of a larger and more representative sample size, especially when taking into consideration the socio-cultural differences of college students between the US and other Western countries.
This study is the first stage of my MarieCurie project which is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and Innovation programme (Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 749514). I would like to thank my supervisors: Professor Cristina Mora (University of Parma) and Miguel Gomez (Cornell University) for their supervision and constructive inputs.



Source: Sogari, G., Velez-Argumedo, C., Gómez M.I., and Mora, C. (2018). College Students and Eating Habits: A Study Using An Ecological Model for Healthy BehaviorNutrients, 10, 1823; doi:10.3390/nu10121823


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