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Dietary intake and eating practices of university students in the UK

Sprake, Eleanor Frances (2016) Dietary intake and eating practices of university students in the UK. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Background: University represents a key event in the transition from youth to adulthood for a substantial proportion of young adults in the UK. There is evidence that UK university students consume poor quality diets, with potential long-term health implications. However, contemporary studies are scarce and limited in scope. Aim: This research aimed to explore the food choices of university students in the UK. Objectives were to: assess dietary adequacy and patterns among UK university students and associated socio-demographic and lifestyle characteristics; explore students’ experiences and values in relation to dietary patterns; and to identify students’ eating behaviours associated with body weight gain. Methods: A multi-methods research design comprising three phases of data collection was employed. An online food frequency questionnaire was administered to undergraduate students at five UK universities to assess dietary adequacy and patterns, with subsequent principal components analysis. Semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of 25 undergraduate students and analysed thematically. An online survey among student members of a national weight loss programme was also undertaken with subsequent analysis. Findings: Dietary analyses revealed intake of several key nutrients and food groups outside of recommendations and four major dietary patterns: ‘vegetarian’; ‘snacking’; ‘health-conscious’; and ‘convenience, red meat & alcohol’. Several socio-demographic and lifestyle characteristics were associated with these patterns. Food choice experiences were complex and involved four substantive themes. Themes encompassed students’ relationships with peers and their dietary decisions at university, the impact of the unique university experience on food choice, aspirations of – and threats to – making healthful choices at university, and students becoming autonomous consumers. Cooking ability and consumption of fruit and vegetables, convenience/fast food and alcohol were significantly associated with body weight gain at university. Conclusions: There is heterogeneity in food intake and dietary practices amongst university students, with implications for enhancements to university food and welfare policies.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health (Sheffield) > Medicine (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.707086
Depositing User: Miss Eleanor Frances Sprake
Date Deposited: 31 Mar 2017 13:20
Last Modified: 25 Sep 2019 20:02
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/16708

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