In their own words: A qualitative study exploring influences on the food choices of university students
Health Promotion Journal of Australia
John Wiley and Sons Inc.
School of Medical and Health Sciences / Exercise Medicine Research Institute
ISSUE ADDRESSED: University students generally make independent decisions regarding food choices. Current research about knowledge of Australian Dietary Guidelines (ADG), sources of nutrition information and influences on food choices for this group is scarce.
METHODS: Qualitative data were collected from gender-separated focus groups comprising four female (n = 31) and four male (n = 18) to identify: knowledge of ADG; sources of nutrition information; factors that influence food choices; perceived relevant nutrition messages and how best to deliver them.
RESULTS: Gaps in knowledge were identified particularly regarding number of serves and serving size for food groups. Social media was the most commonly reported source of knowledge. Social media was also a major influence on food choice due to its impact on body ideals.
CONCLUSION: Current health promotion nutrition messages were perceived irrelevant given the focus on long-term health risks. Health and adhering to the ADG were not identified as important. The desire to look a particular way was the major influence on food choices. SO WHAT?: While there is an awareness of ADG, our participants made a deliberate decision not to follow them. This provides a challenge for developing relevant preventive health messages for this target audience.