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Proper nutrition is a very important aspect of one’s lifestyle (Barzegari, A., Ebrahimi, M., Azizi, M. & Ranjbar, K., 2011). The focus of nutrition is to obtain the suitable and necessary nutrition to lead a healthy life, physically and mentally. Therefore the knowledge and attitudes of people should be considered. This will eventually lead to more people being food-conscious and making healthier choices.
A group in society that is more likely to make a positive change is students, therefore nutritional education can be used to enhance their knowledge which will be helpful for the community. (Barzegari et al.) Alternatively, most students are not familiar with the healthy foods their bodies need in different conditions. (Barzegari et al.)
University students are confronted with a new environment when it comes to meal preparation, planning, and eating as they change over to their university life. A number of factors play a role in their decision-making, nevertheless, the students who do have the necessary knowledge on nutrition do not always make healthy food choices. (Abraham et al.)
Stockton and Baker (2013; 2017) found that university students’ main concern was the additives in the food, and not the number of calories. It was also found that male university students consumed more fast food than female university students.
Various poor eating habits have been noted among university groups in many recent studies. (Abraham, S., Noriega, B.R., & Shin, J.Y., 2018)
An experiment was conducted on vending machine sales on a university campus. It showed that many students tended to select food according to convenience, taste, time, and price rather than nutritional values. (Abraham et al.)
To improve the eating habits and nutritional status of students, it is important to include compulsory forms of formal and informal education at universities. (Rodrigues et al., 2004; Schneider, 2000). In addition to education, Sichert Heller et al. (2011) stress the importance of ensuring the availability and accessibility of healthy food nearby.
Some studies confirm the theory that students’ nutrition knowledge and behavior can improve with education (Lytle et al., 1996; Jaycox, Baranowski, Nader, Dworkin, & Vanderpool, 1983; Powers, Struempler, Guarino, & Parmer, 2005; Reynolds, Winton, Shewchuk, & Hickey, 1999; Shariff et al., 2008). Worsley (2002) found that nutrition education is needed, but warned that this only, cannot cause a person’s nutrition behavior to change.
Students are introduced to nutrition education early in their childhood. Information on nutrition and eating habits is passed on to children by their parents through verbal and non-verbal messages. Even though education and nutrition knowledge does not always have a direct influence on a person’s nutrition behavior, they can affect their attitudes, intentions, and some other psychic and social factors that indirectly influence their behavior (Conner & Armitage, 2002).
Attitudes are socially acquired, therefore people form and change them based on their own life experiences, knowledge, and norms presented by the environment. (Radovan, 2001).
Ajzen (1991) defined attitudes as, ‘An important determinant of a person’s intentions and knowledge while assuming that stability of behavior depends on the stability of attitudes.’ Based on information and knowledge on healthy eating habits, students form attitudes and intentions in reference to nutrition, which also influences their behavior.
Nutrition education intended for students has to include activities and methods to encourage and strengthen self-efficiency associated with healthy eating habits. Education gains in worth when factors limiting healthy eating are removed and students have sufficient access to healthy food. (Gracey, Stanley, Burke, Corti, & Beilin, 1996).
Restraining factors of healthy nutrition defined by Tivadar and Kamin (2005) are divided into nine groups:
Students are not bothered with food preparation and therefore they prefer to go out for their meals. They normally go to fast-food restaurants, mainly when there is no one to cook for them (studying away from home) and when they want to socialize. (Untaru, E.N. & Ispas, A.)
Even though students have the necessary knowledge about the nutritional value of food and its effects on their bodies, they do not act accordingly. Fast-food restaurants are popular because they serve food quite fast, are cheap, and easily substitute homemade meals. People who are normally very busy, either working or studying, find fast foods beneficial, although most know fast foods are high in fats, salt, sugar, and calories. Students do admit that it is difficult for them to change their food habits. (Untaru, E.N. & Ispas, A.)
The price is considered as the most important factor in determining a student’s loyalty, followed by contact employees. The environment and the quality of food are not so important. (Voon, B.H., 2012) Qin and Prybutok (2008) studied the role of price when talking about fast-food consumers and they saw that price did not play such an important role because fast-food products are cheaper compared to other restaurants’ products. However, price plays a key role in attracting students, as they have a lower income.
The students characterize a fast-food restaurant as a friendly place, adapted to their feeding and socializing needs. In addition,” the dynamic atmosphere” is determined by lots of students who are there and whose behavior is the same. (Untaru, E.N. & Ispas, A.) As fast foods are adapted to the meticulous needs of students, they are normally thought of as being youthful, welcoming places, where a person can feel good.
Another part mentioned by students is that fast-food restaurants are more crowded than other restaurants because they are usually situated in the center, where there are a large number of customers. Added observations are that fast food represents the modern world, characterized by the lack of time. Lastly, students believe that fast-food restaurant replaces their mothers’ when they cannot arrive home in time for meals, or during their daily breaks. (Untaru, E.N. & Ispas, A.)
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