College students lead very busy and stressful lives which impacts all aspects of their health. One of the highest risks of a hectic routine is poor eating habits. Many students commonly reach for junk food during study sessions, or fast-food during a night out with friends. Also, many students have reduced impulse control and will choose to eat foods that are high in fat, salt, carbohydrates, and sugar. It is vital that students understand the importance of their choices as well as ways to make better decisions when it comes to meals and snacks.
The purpose of this report is to educate readers on the factors that lead to eat poor habits, and to share some concepts of healthier eating.
This report has the following sections: Introduction, Stress and Student Choices, Schedules and Life Factors in Eating Habits, Ways to Change Eating Habits, Conclusions, Recommendations, References and Appendixes, and Summary.
The report has collated information from The Relationship Between Stress and Eating in College-Aged Students, Bad habits, schedules determine student diets, College student eating habits and nutrition and Healthy Eating for College Students on a Budget.
Stress and Student Choices
Many college students deal with a high stress levels each day due to a busy routine of homework, family life, and work. According to Ruth Blackburn, a nutrition specialist, students can assume poor eating habits for numerous reasons. “Time constraints that make eating a well-balanced meal seem impossible. Lack of sleep and stress can fuel the desire for high sugar and/or high fat foods.” (as cited in Woll, 2002). Foods with high amounts of sugar and fat give a temporary boost of energy that can carry a student through a class or a test; although, a crash in energy usually follows leaving a student feeling ill or tired. One of the most common outcomes of deprived eating habits is weight gain. In a study by Holm-Denoma J. et al (2008), evidence was found that male and female students gained between three to four pounds between the end of high school, and the start of college without a change in height. (Gower 2002- 2013).
Cardiovascular health is important to anyone, and many college students find that their stress levels are high. For new students stress is usually a new experience and as time goes on it is a common occurrence. Stress is defined by Torres and Newson (2007) as “any general response of the body that either overwhelms or threatens to overwhelm the body and its ability to maintain homeostasis.” (as cited in Gower, 2002-2013). Stress can result from the release of cortisol (produced in the adrenal gland) and heightened activity in the HPA (hypothalamic pituitary adrenal) axis. The release of cortisol can also result in over eating as it is a way to calm down. (Torres and Newson, 2007). Stress is one of the leading factors to over eating though it is not the only one.
Schedules and Life Factors in Eating Choices