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SNACKING HABITS OF HIGHER EDUCATION STUDENTS

AT HARPER ADAMS UNIVERSITY



by

AMY BEKOOY
being a thesis submitted in partial fulfilment
of the requirements for the BSc (Honours) Degree
in Food, Nutrition & Well-being

2014
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Acknowledgement
First and foremost, I would like to thank my research project supervisor, Dr Annette Creedon.
Without her assistance, time and dedicated involvement every step of the way, this project would
have never been accomplished. I would like to thank you very much for your positivity and support.
I would also like to thank Harper Adams, for welcoming me four years ago. Thank you for making
me a higher education student and provided me with the University lifestyle, academic stress and
snacking habits that inspired this dissertation. Thanks to all the kind students who took the time to
be a part of my research and for giving me the opportunity to find out that Im not the only one.
Completing my dissertation required more than academic support, and I have many people to thank
for listening to, and at times, putting up with me over this past year. Heather and Emily, who have
been there for academic and personal support throughout University. Zoe and Hannah, who
inspired me with their own experiences and listened to me talk about snacking all year. Thanks for
your support, love and advice. I cannot begin to express my appreciation for their friendship.
None of this could have happened without my family. I want to thank my Mum, who offered her
warm encouragement over the phone, for her helpful suggestions and her keen eye for typos, and
my Dad, for challenging me to aim higher. Every time I worried or felt like it would never come
together, you were there for me. For that, I am forever grateful. This dissertation stands as a
testament to your unconditional love and encouragement. I hope Ive made you proud.
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CONTENTS
1.0. ABSTRACT ....................................................................................................................................... 2
2.0. LITERATURE REVIEW ....................................................................................................................... 2
2.1. The Snack Industry ................................................................................................................... 2
2.1.1. Past Trends ........................................................................................................................ 2
2.1.2. Future Trends .................................................................................................................... 3
2.2. What is a Snack? ...................................................................................................................... 3
2.2.1. Definition of a Snack ......................................................................................................... 3
2.2.1.1. The Industrys Perception .............................................................................................. 3
2.2.1.2. Consumers Perception .................................................................................................. 4
2.2.2. Types of Snack - Healthy Vs. Unhealthy ............................................................................ 4
2.2.3. Is Snacking Beneficial or Detrimental to Health ............................................................... 4
2.3. Who Snacks and Why? ............................................................................................................. 5
2.3.1. Consumers of Snack Foods ............................................................................................... 5
2.3.2. Why Do People Snack? ..................................................................................................... 6
2.4. When and Where do People Snack? ........................................................................................ 7
2.4.1. Snack Locations and Timings............................................................................................. 7
2.4.2. Snack Frequency ............................................................................................................... 7
2.5. Further Research from Findings ............................................................................................... 8
2.5.1. Further Research ............................................................................................................... 8
2.5.2. Proposed Research Question Area ................................................................................... 8
3.0. RESEARCH QUESTIONS ................................................................................................................... 8
4.0. METHODOLOGY .............................................................................................................................. 8
4.1. Research Rationale .................................................................................................................. 8
4.2. Specific Variables/Data Requirements .................................................................................... 9
4.3. Data Collection Instruments and Methods .............................................................................. 9
4.4. Sampling and Participants ........................................................................................................ 9
4.5. Data Collection Process ............................................................................................................ 9
4.6. Data Analysis (Methods and software) .................................................................................... 9
4.7. Limitations................................................................................................................................ 9
5.0. RESEARCH EVALUATION AND DISCUSSION ................................................................................... 10
5.1. Snacking Survey ..................................................................................................................... 10
5.1.1. Snack Consumption by Health Band ............................................................................... 11
5.1.2. Snack Consumption by Food Category ........................................................................... 15
5.1.3. What Do Students Consider a Healthy Snack to Be? ...................................................... 18
5.1.4. Why Do Students Snack? Everyday Vs. Stressed ......................................................... 19
5.1.5. How Does Academic Stress Impact Snacking? ................................................................ 20
5.1.5. Gender, Academic Stress & Snacking ............................................................................. 21
5.2. Snacking Diary ........................................................................................................................ 22
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5.2.1. Snacking Food Type......................................................................................................... 22
5.2.2. Snacking Times ................................................................................................................ 23
5.2.3. Snacking Locations Purchase and Consumption .......................................................... 26
5.2.4. Snacking Occasion Frequency ......................................................................................... 27
5.2.5. Reason for Snacking ........................................................................................................ 27
6.0. Conclusion of Findings ........................................................................................................... 28
7.0. Future Research ..................................................................................................................... 29
REFERENCES .............................................................................................................................................. 30
APPENDIX 1 SNACKING SURVEY ........................................................... ERROR! BOOKMARK NOT DEFINED.
APPENDIX 2 SNACKING SURVEY RESULTS ............................................. ERROR! BOOKMARK NOT DEFINED.
APPENDIX 3 SNACKING DIARY .............................................................. ERROR! BOOKMARK NOT DEFINED.

List of Figures
Figure 1 - Total Average Snacking Frequency of Food Categories .................................................... 13
Figure 2 - Green - "Healthy" Food Category Consumption by Academic Year ................................. 13
Figure 3 - Red - "Unhealthy" Food Category Consumption by Academic Year ................................ 14
Figure 4 - Frequency of Health Bands Consumed by First Year Students ......................................... 14
Figure 5 - Frequency of Health Bands Consumed by Final Year Students ........................................ 15
Figure 6 Frequency of Chocolate Consumption by Academic Year ............................................... 16
Figure 7 Frequency of Fruit Consumption in First Years and Fourth Years ................................... 16
Figure 8 - Frequency of Popcorn/Pretzels Consumption in First Years and Fourth Years ................ 17
Figure 9 - Frequency of Nuts Consumption in First Years and Fourth Years .................................... 18
Figure 10 - What is a Healthy Snack? - Word Infographic ................................................................ 18
Figure 11 - Why Do You Usually Snack? - Word Infographic ............................................................ 19
Figure 12 - Academic Stress Snacking - How/why? - Word Infographic ........................................... 20
Figure 13 - Academic Stress and Snack Healthiness ......................................................................... 21
Figure 14 - Academic Stress and Snack Quantity .............................................................................. 21
Figure 15 - Academic Stress and Snack Healthiness by Gender ....................................................... 22
Figure 16 - Academic Stress and Snack Quantity by Gender ............................................................ 22
Figure 17 - Snacking Diary - Snack Types Consumed ........................................................................ 23
Figure 18 - Snacking Diary Result - Snacking Occasions Timing ........................................................ 24
Figure 19 - Snacking Diary Results - Snack Consumption Location ................................................... 26
Figure 20 - Snacking Diary Results - Snack Purchase Location ......................................................... 27
Figure 21 - Snacking Diary - Reasons for Snacking ............................................................................ 28


List of Tables
Table 1 - Snacking Survey Respondents Course Areas .................................................................... 10
Table 2 - Food Categories Placed in Each Band ................................................................................ 11
Table 3 - Food Categories Frequency Options Breakdown ............................................................... 11
Table 4 - Snack Frequency Food Category Breakdown by Academic Year ....................................... 12
Table 5 - Snacking Diary - Snacks by Time Consumed ...................................................................... 25

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1.0. Abstract
The snack industry is booming (Hughes, 2013), as well as the obesity crisis. Little snacking
research has been carried out on higher education students in the UK; their snacking habits of and
influential lifestyle factors such as stress (Shephard and Raats, 2006) and irregular work hours
(Health, et al., 2012) may affect their snacking behaviour. Academic stress was identified as a
factor which could be researched in more detail. A snacking survey and diary were designed to
find out what food products are consumed as and considered to be snacks, the healthiness and
quantity of snack consumption and to identify factors that may influence snacking. 181 Harper
Adams University students completed the survey and 5 students completed the snacking diary for
the week of an academic stressor. The results found that overall, stress did influence snacking;
quantity of snacks increased and healthiness decreased when stressed (p0.001). Food products
from every category were consumed by someone as a snack at some point and not only
categories recognised as snack foods (Hughes, 2013). The majority of students understood what
a healthy snack was, but still chose to consume unhealthy options, with chocolate being the most
frequently consumed snack. Unhealthy snacking was more prominent in first and final year
students and those on placement tended to snack the healthiest. Future research could include a
full scale snacking diary study to investigate higher education students dietary patterns further.
2.0. Literature Review
2.1. The Snack Industry
The UK snack food industry has continued to thrive where other market sectors have fallen victim
to factors such as the recession, with a growth of 26% from 2007 to 2011 (Hughes, 2013). This
growth in the snacking industry could be a reaction to the escalation of snacking behaviour in
recent years.
2.1.1. Past Trends
In the 1990s, snacks were more basic, with a limited variety for people to choose from compared
to todays market. On average in America, the percentage of total daily food intake consumed in
the form of snacks has increased from 12% in the late 1970s to 24% in 2010, as well as the
number of daily eating occasions increasing from 3.9 to 5.6 in the same period (Immink, 2013).
English snacking studies based on mid-1990s data found that adult snacking provided 1729% of
the total daily energy, with younger and middle-aged adults consuming a larger proportion of
energy from snacks (Piermas and Popkin, 2010). These figures have likely changed since the study
was conducted, nonetheless, this shows how snacking was already prevalent prior to the
accelerated growth of the industry leading up to 2012, demonstrated by Key Note in 2012
(Hughes, 2013).
The outlook on snacking has changed over recent years, with some saying it has become the new
fourth meal (Cate, 2012) and the new dominant eating occasion (Daymon Worldwide, 2013).
Peoples tastes are changing, with choices increasing and demand for more premium, healthier
snacks becoming more prevalent. In 2012, sweet and savoury snacks experienced strong growth,
due to the rising trend of eating between meals (IFT, 2013), due to reduced time and reduction of
family meal occasions, leading to eating on the go and individually.

According to the 2012 Snack Foods Market Report, the other savoury snacks section, including
pretzels, crackers and popcorn, experienced the fastest growth in the market due to the wide
variety of products covered (Hughes, 2013). The Potato Crisps sector was the second-largest
market category, growing by 7% in 2012 due to the demand for premium variants and the
introduction of new flavours by manufacturers (Hughes, 2013). The snack nut sector showed the
slowest growth with an increase in value of only 3.9%, reflecting the consumers reaction to the
recession and trading down to reduce their spending. Manufacturers have responded to this
change by combining snack nuts with other ingredients such as dried fruit and crisps to lower the
recommended retail prices (RRPs) of their products, and creating premium variants (Hughes,
2013). Products which have been developed and incorporated into the savoury snack sector as a
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result of a growing demand for healthy products include gourmet popcorn and pretzels. This
trend is on the rise, and likely to dominate the food industry along with similar products in the
years to come.
2.1.2. Future Trends
The demand for guilt-free snacks by health-conscious customers is rapidly growing, as well as
the need for more convenient snack products and a greater variety of choices that includes exotic
and bold flavours (IFT, 2013).
While the health-snack market is flourishing, there is still a large market for consumers who snack
for fun or comfort; manufacturers and retailers recognise this and those who choose to provide
both are set for success (Immink, 2013).
Future trends shown in the Snack Market Report (Hughes, 2013) include the rising popularity and
demand for British snacks, healthier snacks, sharing packs for families and social eating,
multipacks for homemade lunches, nuts, indulgent products and snacks with environmentally
friendly packaging. This has led to manufacturers developing their existing products and creating
new ones to meet their consumers current and future wants.
2.2. What is a Snack?
2.2.1. Definition of a Snack
The industry recognised definition of what a snack food is may not directly correlate with what
the consumer perceives a snack to be. For example, a cereal bar eaten in the morning can be
defined as breakfast, but if eaten between lunch and dinner, it could be considered a snack. A
snack food is therefore difficult to define due to cross-category classification (Hayes, et al.,
2010). However, the circumstances in which foods are consumed may provide a wider outlook on
what constitutes a snack.
The general popularity of snacks, their practicality, comparative value and the increasing number
of occasions during which they are consumed, have all contributed to the growth of the market.
For example, potato crisps, which were once consumed as a snack between meals, have been
incorporated into meal times such as an accompaniment to lunch or consumed while entertaining
guests (Hughes, 2013).
A study conducted by Gatenby (1997) on eating frequency and dietary aspects suggests that
the difference between snacks and meals depends on the time the food is consumed
and/or the nutrient composition of the food. This is a rounded view covering the time and
quality of food eaten. However, the study was conducted over ten years ago, making the study
and definition a bit outdated due to the constant changes and developments seen from the food
industry.
2.2.1.1. The Industrys Perception
The industry recognised definition of a snack food is; savoury and sweet solids eaten outside the
main three meals (Hughes, 2013). In market reports, it is difficult to group certain products due to
cross classification (Hayes, et al., 2010). A marketing report has to draw distinctions between
products in order to quantify sales and trends to monitor consumer behaviour. This means some
products often consumed by people as a snack may not be included in the market reports under
the title snack foods, but instead under the title of Milk & Dairy Products or Biscuits & Cakes,
thereby making it difficult to gain an accurate view of what a snack is.
Journalists have defined snacks in relation to caloric consumption, social interaction and time of
consumption (Chaplin and Smith, 2011). Others have looked at snacking in a social context as the
absence or presence of fellow diners, with a meal being a planned social interaction centred on
food (Rotenberg, 1981). This definition may, however, be outdated, as meal patterns have
changed dramatically over the years, with desk and dashboard dining becoming more common,
and the precedence of family meals decreasing (Hughes, 2013). Similarly, Wansink, et al., (2010)
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explored the idea that situation cues may drive consumer perception when distinguishing
between meals and snacks. The idea has also been explored that mood impacts the perception of
eating occasion classification, with boredom and impulsiveness associated with snacks and
happiness associated with meals. (Wansink, et al., 2010). How the industry defines a snack may
give a more structured, focused view than that of the consumer, but may not accurately
represent the consumers opinion.
2.2.1.2. Consumers Perception
When it comes to the consumers perception of what constitutes a snack, the differentiation from
the industries perception occurs when a consumer is questioned about what they actually eat as a
snack (Weijzen, et al., 2008). This occurs as ones perception of a snack may not accurately
represent what they consume as one, known as the theory of planned behaviour, or reasoned
action (Connor and Armitage, 2002).

A study by Hayes, et al. (2010) looked at how consumers cross-classify foods into more than one
food category or eating occasion. The study showed that what people perceive as a snack
depended on the time of day eaten, and the meals which surrounded the products, as well as
whether it was consumed separately or as part of a meal (Hayes, et al., 2010). How a person
classifies a snack may also depend on their age, gender, social influences, medial impact and
educational background; higher educated consumers generally having a better understanding of
the benefits and detriments of certain foods, supposedly making them more able to choose
healthier snacks which will benefit their health, energy and concentration (Cutler, 2007).
2.2.2. Types of Snack - Healthy Vs. Unhealthy
There are a number of different snack foods on the market at present. The 2012 snack foods
market report focuses on three sections; potato snacks, nuts and other savoury snacks (Hughes,
2013). This report only covers part of the snacking industry, which many identify as unhealthy
snacks, as well as sweet snacks and the confectionary sector. High in fat, salt and sugar, these
snacks, if eaten in excess, could be considered unhealthy, and detrimental to a persons health.
However, if other healthier options, such as fruit, vegetables and natural yoghurt, are eaten as a
snack, they could potentially benefit a persons diet by providing additional nutrients and
vitamins. This is especially important for younger children with smaller appetites, as they may not
be able to fulfil their energy requirements within three main meals (Ediums, 2007).
Comparisons of periodic national surveys of eating habits suggest that foods eaten between the
main three meals make a significant contribution to the total food intake of all age-groups, with
nearly one in six obese adults obtaining over 40% of their total daily calories from snacks (Webb,
2013).
2.2.3. Is Snacking Beneficial or Detrimental to Health
Snacks, in moderation, could potentially benefit health; however, this is highly dependent on the
quantity and quality of snacks, and the relationship between them and a persons regular meals.
A report by Euromonitor International (2013) recommends looking at the quantity, frequency and
time of day consumed as being key contributors when defining if snacks are beneficial or
detrimental to health, with correlations between eating little and often, and lower BMIs.
However, this does not show whether the lower BMIs are within the normal/healthy section of
the BMI scale, as BMIs lower than 20 could also be seen as detrimental, through under-nutrition,
just as being overweight (BMIs above 25) could be detrimental (Euromonitor International, 2013).
The impact of snacking on health is highly dependent on how a snack is defined (Gregori, et al.,
2011), the type of snacks consumed, and their resulting impact on meal patterns. Skipping meals,
especially breakfast, is a common occurrence among adolescents (Savige, et al., 2007), and
snacking, or grazing, has become increasingly popular over the years. It can be argued that
grazing is not in itself the problem with regards to nutrient deficiencies and obesity, it is instead
the choice of foods that students eat as snacks that often puts them at risk (Silvis, 2002). The
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portion size of a persons meals could also be reduced as a result of reduced hunger at meal times
and a maintained energy balance throughout the day, reducing excessive hunger at mealtimes
and the urge to overeat (Chapelot, 2011). These interpretations offer a different view on snacking,
as they focus on the quality and quantity of food consumed, rather than generalising all snacks as
unhealthy.
It is also important to look at consumers individually, whether that be through targeted nutrition
on a one-to-one scale or in smaller focused groups sharing similar traits, as their needs may differ.
Within the environment of the individual are external and internal factors that are unique to the
individual (Silvis, 2002). For example, athletes may require more energy and protein, delivered in
smaller snack sized portions in relation to their exercise regime, as well as specific nutrients for
their physical requirements. This differs from that of a sedentary student with a high stress
lifestyle, requiring brain-food delivered in regular meals, for concentration and energy, as well
as specific healthier snacks to maintain balanced energy between meals. High stress lifestyles can
also lead to a reduction in time to cook meals, and snacks may provide some energy and nutrients
where nutritious meals arent available.
Stress, and many other factors, can also impact eating habits, and the choice of food to consume
as a snack. Frequent stress may then result in excess energy intake, weight gain, and obesity
(Roemmich, et al., 2002). With younger groups consuming more calories as snacks than adults
aged 60 and older (Webb, 2013), these younger age groups should be observed more and reasons
for this increase in calories from snacks explored.
2.3. Who Snacks and Why?
2.3.1. Consumers of Snack Foods
When looking at different ages, genders and characteristics of consumers and their various
snacking behaviours, it has been found that, adults aged 60 and older consume fewer calories as
snacks than younger groups (Webb, 2013). Hence, the snacking habits of adolescents and high
school students are of particular interest to many researchers, as learning to choose healthy
snacks at this life stage may lead to lifelong healthy eating habits (Silvis, 2002). However, less
research has been done on higher education students and their snacking habits as a result of
specific lifestyle and personal factors, including workload, stress, finances, peer pressure,
education level and time. In particular, higher education student lifestyle aspects such as exams,
assignments, irregular lecture times, forming new social bonds, living away from home, student
loans and shopping for themselves may all impact their food choice in some way, and would be of
interest to investigate further.
There is much debate over whether or not snacking habits are gender specific, and if so, what
each gender snacks on and which snacks more. Gender influence on snacking habits was
investigated by Silvis (2002) by comparing calorie and nutrient dense snacks frequently chosen by
each gender. It was found that gender did not significantly affect the determinants of snacking
behaviour (Silvis, 2002). In addition, it did show that adolescents, both male and female,
consumed a lot of dairy products as snacks, although the form varied. However, these results
were from an adolescent population of mixed race, which may show conflicting results from other
studies due to age and cultural influences. Although this study was age specific, it does give a
good idea of whether gender is a dominant factor in identifying snacking habits, as when
compared to other studies, they too show that the biological factor of gender does not seem to
play as big a role as other internal and external factors, such as stress, social and environmental
influences and lifestyle. Reflecting this was an emotional state specific investigation, which
demonstrated that there was a correlation between stress, choice of snack and snack frequency,
as well as a stronger correlation among women (Serlachius, et al., 2007).
Adult women have been studied in relation to emotional eating, snacking and obesity (Lu, et al.,
2008). The findings showed that there was a correlation, showing inhibitory performance acted as
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a predictor of everyday eating behaviours reported by participants, specifically, they reported
new high calorific food snacking and experienced cravings (Lu, et al., 2008).
2.3.2. Why Do People Snack?
Consumers offer a variety of reasons for their snacking habits, as well as expressed behaviours
which can be broken down and explained by various consumer behaviour approaches. Snacks, in
contrast to meals, are often consumed as a result of influences other than hunger. Snacking
during satiety is a common occurrence, and the reasoning behind this has been explored by
various researchers (Marmonier, et al., 2000 and Honkanen, et al., 2012).
A study conducted on students and employees at a University in Norway found that both
attitudes towards unhealthy snacking and impulsive snack buying tendency were positively
related to snack consumption (Honkanen, et al., 2012). This shows that people impulse buy
snacks, making them more accessible and consequently increasing snack consumption. This
finding may not accurately represent the reasoning of UK residents, however, it does give an
overview of another reason people snack.
Verhoeven, et al., (2012) looked at the impact of learned habit on current unhealthy snacking
habits, showing that habit strength was the most important predictor, outperforming all other
variables in explaining unhealthy snack intake. This study provides a good overview of a possible
contributor to snacking behaviour on the overall community, but does not focus on specific
factors which may impact some segments of the population more than others, such as stress,
working hours, food availability and finances. It also does not cover higher education; a group of
people who should have a better understanding of nutritional information and health
requirements. This may make the findings and conclusion of the reasoning behind unhealthy
snacking, flawed, or at least, incomplete.
Stress has been found to have a significant impact on the eating habits of people. A study
conducted on a small group of female office workers found a higher energy intake and higher
percentage of energy consumed as fat in a high workload period compared with normal work
periods (Shephard and Raats, 2006). This relationship reflects that of comfort eating when faced
with stressful situations. Similarly, the number of hassles a person experiences in a day
significantly correlates to the number of snacks consumed, according to Connera, et al., (1999). In
both adults and children, it has been found that stress precedes weight gain and many may use
snacking as a stress coping mechanism. The impact of stress on eating is not black and white like
some other reasons. For some people, stress may reduce energy intake, whereas for others, it can
increase energy intake (Roemmich, et al., 2002). This contradictory relationship is known as the
stress eating paradox (Shephard and Raats, 2006).
Naturally occurring stressful circumstances can provide a predictable context to study stress-
related diet variations; examples include examinations or periods of high workload (Shephard and
Raats, 2006). A study conducted on UK first year University students looking at the effect of stress
on weight gain showed considerable variation, with 55% of the sample reporting weight gain, 12%
showing weight loss, and 33% remaining the same. Stress was associated with a greater risk of
weight change; either an increase or decrease, and demonstrated as stronger among women
(Serlachius, et al., 2007). This study demonstrates the eating habits of UK university students, and
their relationship with health. The behaviours and outcomes can be analysed in more detail, as a
specified portion of the population, as opposed to a generalised view of the population. The study
could be further looked at in relation to the source of stress, and the type of food consumed;
snacks versus meals, and the quality and quantity of the food. The study shows that the lifestyle
of first year University students impacts the stress levels and consequently results in weight
change, but the reasoning behind this change remains undetermined.
In a study of students perception of the relationship between stress and snacking, 73% of
students reported that stress increased their snacking, while decreasing their consumption of
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meal type foods (Oliver and Wardle, 1999). In addition, a naturalistic study of work stress
showed that high-workload periods were associated with greater intakes of energy, saturated fats
and sugar (Shephard and Raats, 2006). In contrast, Silvis (2002) found that some factors, such as
body image, may result in reduced snacking behaviour when stressed.
2.4. When and Where do People Snack?
2.4.1. Snack Locations and Timings
There is some evidence to indicate that due to irregular working hours, shift workers experience
circadian disruption and sleep restriction which may adversely affect health through changes in
snacking behaviour (Health, et al., 2012).These irregular work hours and sleep patterns not only
describe shift workers, but University students, attending lectures and tutorials at irregular hours
each day, especially during exam time where the number of lectures are reduced. This could
detrimentally affect the health of both people out at work and those in higher education. The
impact of a poor diet when attempting to absorb information during learning and revision time
could negatively affect knowledge retention.
However, if the irregular hours and lack of sleep change the snacking behaviour (Heath, et al.,
2012) by increasing the amount of energy consumed to keep them going during their work
sessions (Chapelot, 2011), or provide nutrients missed in meals (Ediums, 2007) due to work and
lesson times, then snacking could be beneficial to a persons health. Snacking in front of the TV
has been studied over the years, with a particular focus on the term grazing, or eating without
recognition. A study in Canada on undergraduate University students found that students
reporting medium or high TV viewership snacked more frequently while watching TV, consumed
more energy dense snacks and recognised more advertising than students who were considered
low viewers (Thomson, et al., 2008).
Vending machines, incorporated into many public buildings, schools, Universities and work
establishments, provide access to snacks; particularly chocolate and crisps, on an everyday basis,
increasing the accessibility to snack foods where they once were inaccessible (Spanos and
Hankey, 2010). However, the foods provided in these machines must be durable and have a
reasonably long shelf life, leading to foods available in these machines usually consisting of
products high in fat, salt and sugar. Many University students have been found to habitually
consume products from vending machines (Spanos and Hankey, 2010), making healthy snacking
difficult for some, due to inaccessibility and time restraints.
The time of day people snack often correlates with the time of day people consume their main
three meals; whether that be due to hunger or as a result of emotional or mental changes caused
by missing meals, a change in lifestyle or through high stress periods. Furthermore, numerous
experiments have shown that the manipulation of the structure of meals consumed results in
postprandial changes in mood and mental functions, due to the nutrient composition or sensory
aspects (Shephard and Raats, 2006). There has been a longstanding interest in the relationship
between emotions and eating behaviour in human beings, and this resultant mood change may
result in comfort eating; a known cause of excessive snacking (Shephard and Raats, 2006).
2.4.2. Snack Frequency
The number of snacks consumed, how often they are consumed, and how much is consumed at
one time is context specific and depends on several factors, for example; the person and their
internal cognitive processing and habitual thinking (learned behaviour), stress levels, availability
of snacks and time. There are many more factors which may influence the amount a person
consumes, but the final cause will depend highly on the circumstances surrounding each snacking
occasion. This amount can change from one snacking time to another, but specific circumstances
can provoke a specific effect when it comes to snack frequency. An example of this is watching
television, with snack consumption increasing in parallel with each hour of TV watched (Thomson,
et al., 2008).
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A study on students from two American Universities showed a mean of 2.6 snacking occasions per
day and that snack food selections tended to be high in nutrient density. It was also found that
upper academic years had more knowledge of healthy snacks than lower years and were able to
make healthy snack choices in inconvenient/difficult settings (Dallmeyer, et al., 2012). A previous
study by Cross, et al. (1994) looked at snacking behaviour; frequency, time of day, location, and
quality, in adults and children in America. It was found that children snacked at least once a day,
and snacking was most common in the afternoon. Almost all snacking was at home, fruit was
popular but chosen less often than other food categories, and taste outranked nutrition for all.
2.5. Further Research from Findings
2.5.1. Further Research
When it comes to higher education students, some research has been carried out on their general
snacking behaviour, but little has been researched in the UK, as well as in relation to the cues
which could relate to snacking habits. One of particular interest is stress; a highly prominent state
when it comes to higher education students. The timing of high workload periods varies from one
course to another, due to assignments being handed in on different dates. However, these course
schedules may help predict periods of high stress. The circumstances of exams, and the
examination period is universal for most students, with exams set to be completed on specific
days at specified times. This varies highly from assignments, where workload and time of
completion depends highly on the student and their time management skills; with some
completing assignments weeks in advance, or spreading the workload, minimising stress, and
others working close to the deadline, in short, high-stress work periods.
Higher educated individuals should theoretically have a better knowledge level and understanding
of the benefits and detriments of certain diets, and be more nutrition literate, leading to better
nutritionally suited, informative food decisions due to their higher knowledge. However, the
aspect of a high stress lifestyle may override a persons normal behaviour and knowledge of
healthier snacking habits, leading to altered unhealthy snacking behaviour.
2.5.2. Proposed Research Question Area
Therefore, the impact of academic stress on the snacking behaviour of higher education
University students would be interesting to investigate. Both qualitative and quantitative research
will be used in the form of a snacking diary and food frequency questionnaire to compare normal
work periods and periods of high academic pressure to see if a difference in eating/snacking
behaviour occurs, as well as what students generally perceive and consume as snacks. This
research is assuming that the students do not have other causes of stress in their lives, and
therefore, there is no stress other than academic.
3.0. Research Questions
The principal research question which will be investigated in this study is:
How does the higher education lifestyle affect snacking habits among students?
Objectives of this research which will be looked at are:
1. What food products are consumed as and considered to be snacks?
2. The healthiness and quantity of snack consumption in higher education students
3. Factors that influence the snacking habits of higher education students.
4.0. Methodology
4.1. Research Rationale
Much research has been undertaken in relation to adolescents and their snacking habits, looking
at the motives and methods behind food choices made, as well as the timing, frequency, quantity
and quality of snacks (Silvis, 2002 and Webb, 2013). Research has looked at teenagers due to the
growing obesity crisis and the assumption that they are a high risk group that is easily influenced,
9

however, little has been done looking at University and higher education students; a group of
individuals who share a common ground of lifestyle and education level, as well as additional
factors such as low income, high stress, irregular work hours and for many it being their first time
living away from home and making their own food purchasing decisions. These factors have been
identified as influential to food choices and eating habits and are all combined in a single
demographic. By sampling students from one University, the timetable, workload and
surroundings create a neutral basis for snacking habit data collection.
4.2. Specific Variables/Data Requirements
Data required to carry out this research includes what people are snacking on, what they consider
a snack to be, how often they snack, healthiness and quantity consumed, where people purchase
and consume their snacks and how they snack in the situation of a high stress lifestyle.
4.3. Data Collection Instruments and Methods
In addition to a literature review researching existing studies and information, primary data will
be collected to answer the research questions, consisting of both quantitative and qualitative
data. Qualitative research will be conducted using open ended questions in order to gain an
insight into the drivers of snacking; why people snack, what they consider a healthy snack is and
how they feel academic stress (for example, revision and assignment writing) affects them.
Quantitative research will also be used to identify statistical patterns of snacking frequency, to
form a picture of the snacking habits of Harper Adams students.
4.4. Sampling and Participants
Participants for both sampling techniques will be current Harper Adams University students. For
the snacking survey, a sample of 150-200 University students would be preferable, from a range
of course areas, genders and year groups. The snacking diary will be completed by a sample of 5-
10 students to support the data collected in the survey, as well as to provide key information
regarding the eating time, place, type of food, quantity and purchase location of snacks
consumed, as well as a real life representation of the impact of an academic stressor, such as a
scheduled University assignment deadline, presentation or examination, on a persons snacking
habits, helping to support the theoretical questions asked in the survey.
4.5. Data Collection Process
The snacking diary will be released to the participants via their student email and social media
sites in Week 9 of study (November 25
th
2013). The survey be deactivated after three weeks, to
gain an insight into the snacking habits of students during University term time and in the days
surrounding an academic pressure, such as an assignment deadline. Simultaneously, students will
be asked if they would be happy to complete a snacking diary during the week (Monday-Friday) of
an academic stressor (assignment hand-in or exam). Those who responded with acceptance will
then be sent the diary in electronic form and asked to return the diary via email once completed.
4.6. Data Analysis (Methods and software)
The raw data will be analysed using Microsoft Excel to examine the overall responses of the
students and to compare different groups.
4.7. Limitations
The limitations of this study include: the possible variation between the demographic ratio of the
sample and that of the total population (such as academic year, gender, course area and
accommodation) and other external influencing factors which may affect the results (personal
and home influences). There is also the limitation of participants truthfulness and memory on
completion of the snacking diary.
10

5.0. Research Evaluation and Discussion
5.1. Snacking Survey
A survey was released to the students at Harper Adams University in Shropshire, England,
receiving 211 responses in total; 181 complete and 30 incomplete. The incomplete responses will
not be included in this study. The survey was completed by 7.3% of the current student
population of 2468. Of those who completed the survey, 136 were female, 43 male and 2
undisclosed. The respondents came from a range of academic year groups; 30.94% first year,
18.23% second year, 6.63% placement/3
rd
year, 39.23% fourth/final year and 4.97% other
(postgraduates and masters). The different course programmes were represented as shown in
Table 1:

Table 1 - Snacking Survey Respondents Course Areas
Course (Total Students) Responses Percentage Actual University % *
Food (135) 45 24.86% 33% (1.8%)
Animal Studies (230) 32 17.68%
13.9% (1.3%)
Agriculture (612) 22 12.15% 3.6% (0.9%)
Veterinary Studies (185) 20 11.05% 10.8% (0.8%
Engineering (276) 17 9.39% 6.2% (0.7%)
Countryside & Environment (187) 14 7.73% 7.5% (0.6%)
REALM (283) 14 7.73% 4.9% (0.6%)
Agri-food & Business (264) 10 5.52%
3.8% (0.4%)
Other (296) 7 3.87% 2.4% (0.3%)
(Stokes, 2014. Pers Comm. Mrs N. Stokes is the Student Records Officer at Harper Adams
University)
* In brackets is the percentage of the whole current mainstream student population (2468
students) that responded. The 'Other' category only includes postgraduates (not research or other
short course students) as some are not on campus or do not have full IT access so would be
unlikely to have responded, which would probably skew the figures. There are 296 postgraduates.
Only 42 of these are full-time.
Table 1 shows the proportion of responses from each course area compared with the total
number currently studying at the University. The respondents current accommodation included
34.35% situated on-campus (19.34% catered and 14.92% self-catered) and 65.19% living off-
campus, both away from home independently (51.93%) and at home with family or a partner
(13.26%). The accommodation variable may determine a persons shopping habits and food
independence; those making their own food choices when living, shopping and eating alone,
compared with set meal times and/or shared food decisions present in catered or family
situations, possibly influencing their snacking as a result.

11

5.1.1. Snack Consumption by Health Band
The students were asked to select how frequently they consume certain food categories as a
snack using a 6-point scale. The results were then analysed to identify trends in relation to the
healthiness and type of snacks, looking at how they currently fit into the snack food market and to
see if students snacking habits vary from those recorded in previous studies on different
demographics. There was great variation between the consumption of different food categories,
specifically showing health and food type trends across both the academic years and the overall
survey. The food groups were then categorised into three bands (Table 2); Green as healthy,
Orange as a middle range, and Red as unhealthy.
Table 2 - Food Categories Placed in Each Band
Green Healthy Orange Middle Red Unhealthy
Fruit
Vegetables
Dried Fruit
Seeds
Nuts
Pasta/Rice
Baked Bread Products
Cereal
Cereal Bars
Popcorn/Pretzels
Crackers/Wafers
Cold Meat
Refrigerated Dairy (Cheese/Yoghurt)
Other (Sweet)
Other (Salty)
Cake
Chocolate
Confectionary
Biscuits/Cookies
Frozen Dairy (Ice Cream)
Potato Crisps
Chips/Fries
Pastry Products
Fast Food

These categories were chosen for each food group in relation to nutrient density (Drewnowski,
2005) and the possible health implications of their fat, sugar and salt content, with foods such as
fruit placed in the green band and pastry products grouped in the red band. The responses were
grouped into three frequencies depending on how often they were consumed, as shown in
Table 3. The response categories were then organised into these groups and Table 4 shows the
percentage of each band by frequency, breaking down the responses into academic years and
showing a total survey average. The data shows green band foods were mostly consumed rarely
(57.24%). Orange band foods show a gradual increase towards rarely (58.51%) and red band foods
highest around the mid to rare frequency range with a total of 90.05% responses between them.
There was also little variation between academic years overall. The largest difference was an
increased snack healthiness in third years, with 23.34% more consuming red band foods rarely
than final years and a generally higher green band consumption frequency than other years
(Table 4). This could depict an increase in snack healthiness when living and working away from
university on placement. This supports the theory that academic stress impacts snacking
behaviour and decreases healthiness. However, some final year foundation students (not
currently on placement) may be included in this group, which may skew the results and this
theory.
Table 3 - Food Categories Frequency Options Breakdown
Frequency Group Often (1-2) Mid (3-4) Rarely (5-6)
Frequency
Options
2+ a Day
One a Day
2-3 Times A Week
One A Week
Less Than Once A
Week/Occasionally
Never


12

Table 4 - Snack Frequency Food Category Breakdown by Academic Year











Figure 1 shows the respondents snack consumption frequency by food band. Of all the food bands,
the number of respondents that never consumed red-unhealthy foods was much lower than that
of orange-middle and green-healthy band foods, with the never response for unhealthy foods
at 15% compared to 23% green band and 32% orange band. When frequency is grouped (Table 4),
red band foods are consumed less frequently than green and orange band foods, with a difference
of around 10%. In Figure 1, the increase towards mid-frequent consumption (Table 3) shows that
red band snack products were consumed more frequently than orange band foods and much higher
than green band foods. Healthy snacks expressed a polarised trend, with students tending to either
consume them often or rarely, compared to the orange bands gradual increase towards
infrequency and the red bands steeper increase with a dramatic drop for the never option. The
mid-range of Figure 1 shows the red band has the highest frequency, followed by orange then
green, depicting the popularity of consuming less healthy snacks on a regular basis, but not to either
extreme where variation begins to occur. With 47% of the students consuming unhealthy snacks
rarely compared with 57% consuming healthy snacks rarely, the figures show a skew towards
unhealthy snacking. This suggests that students are not snacking as healthily as they could be and
are recommended to (FSA, 2006).
It should be noted that the food bands contained both popular and unpopular snack food
categories, which may influence the frequency of the group as a whole; an example of this is the
healthy food category, where fruit was consumed often by many respondents compared to seeds
which were rarely consumed.
Healthiness Level Frequency
First
Year
Second
Year
Third
Year
Final
Year
Total
Average
Green - "Healthy" Often (1-2) 24.29% 23.64% 31.67% 25.63% 24.86%
Mid (3-4) 16.79% 21.82% 18.33% 16.06% 17.90%
Rare (5-6) 58.93% 54.55% 50.00% 58.31% 57.24%
Orange - "Middle" Often (1-2) 10.36% 14.24% 13.33% 12.82% 12.04%
Mid (3-4) 30.89% 31.52% 29.17% 28.87% 29.45%
Rare (5-6) 58.75% 54.24% 57.50% 58.31% 58.51%
Red - "Unhealthy" Often (1-2) 10.32% 9.43% 4.63% 11.11% 9.94%
Mid (3-4) 38.49% 44.44% 29.63% 46.48% 42.66%
Rare (5-6) 51.19% 46.13% 65.74% 42.41% 47.39%
13


Figure 1 - Total Average Snacking Frequency of Food Categories
When comparing academic years green (Figure 2) and red (Figure 3) category consumption, a
similar overall trend could be seen between first, second and final years. However, third
years/placement students showed an generally healthier snacking tendency than other years,
possibly due to lower academic stress levels or many (excluding foundation degree students)
living away from University, working full-time. The most variation was around the 2+ a day and
never frequencies, as seen in Figure 2, with on average 25% more first and final years never
consuming healthy foods when compared to other years.

Figure 2 - Green - "Healthy" Food Category Consumption by Academic Year

0%
5%
10%
15%
20%
25%
30%
35%
40%
2+ A Day Once A Day 2-3 Times A Week Once A Week Less Than Once A
Week/Occasionally
Never
Food Category Snack Frequency
Green - "Healthy" Orange - "Middle" Red - "Unhealthy"
0%
5%
10%
15%
20%
25%
30%
35%
40%
2+ A Day Once A Day 2-3 Times A Week Once A Week Less Than Once A
Week/Occasionally
Never
Consumption Frequency of Green - "Healthy" Food
Categories By Academic Year
First Years Second Years Third Years Final Years
14


Figure 3 - Red - "Unhealthy" Food Category Consumption by Academic Year
Comparing final year and first year students showed little variation, following a similar trend for
each food band when grouped (Figures 4 & 5). However, for first years, the green band showed a
variation in trend, with 24.29% snacking on healthier foods often, a dip to 16.79% snacking mid
frequency and a peak of 58.93% rarely (Figure 4). In comparison, the unhealthy red food band
showed 10.32% of respondents consumed them often, 38.49% mid frequency and 51.19% rarely.
This shows that although unhealthy snacks are consumed less often than healthy, green band
snacks showed a higher rare consumption than red.
Comparing this to final years (Figure 5), the red band showed a higher mid-frequency of 46.48%
and a lower rare frequency of 42.41%. Final years higher unhealthy snack consumption could be
due to an increased budget to spend on food after their paid placement year, their location off
campus and closer proximity to takeaway shops such as Greggs and other convenience shops, or
due to their perceived high stress and work load leading up to final year exam

Figure 4 - Frequency of Health Bands Consumed by First Year Students
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
2+ A Day Once A Day 2-3 Times A Week Once A Week Less Than Once A
Week/Occasionally
Never
Consumption Frequency of Red - "Unhealthy" Food
Categories By Academic Year
First Years Second Years Third Years Final Years
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
Often (1-2) Mid (3-4) Rare (5-6)
First Years' Health Band Snack Consumption
Green - "Healthy" Orange - "Middle" Red - "Unhealthy"
15


Figure 5 - Frequency of Health Bands Consumed by Final Year Students
5.1.2. Snack Consumption by Food Category
For the purposes of a more in-depth comparable analysis, a number of food categories from each
health band were selected to be reviewed in detail. Those included (chocolate, fruit,
pretzels/popcorn and nuts) showed particular variation in trend frequency, either from other food
categories or between academic years.
When asked to select how often specific food categories (Table 2) were consumed as a snack, the
only product which was consumed by all but one male respondent was chocolate. This trend may
be due to the high proportion of females who completed the survey, with 26% of women and 19%
of men consuming chocolate often in the survey and the association of comfort eating, stress
and chocolate consumption often identified among females (Wansink and Sangerman, 2000).
Comparing academic years (Figure 6) showed more first years consume chocolate 2+ times a day
than any other year. The highest chocolate consumption frequency was fourth years with a peak
of 49.30% at 2-3 times a week, compared with first years who consumed the food category less
frequently at 26.79%. Second years also showed a peak at this point, but depicted a more even
spread similar to first years compared to final years (Figure 6).
The peak may be a result of students continuous high stress, with fourth years leading up to final
year exams, their dissertation deadline and constant assignment deadlines throughout the year.
The frequency being in the mid-range (Table 3) instead of more or less frequently may correlate
with high academic work periods experienced weekly. With fewer lectures than first years and
longer periods of free time for independent study and other activities, students may find
themselves at home or in the University library working academically for longer periods of time,
leaving them with less free time to cook meals, wanting not to break focus by leaving the library
and snacking instead to compensate.
The influence of boredom and stress during work were also found to be common reasons for
snacking, as well as the impact that high workload periods have on snacking frequency,
correlating with research by Shephard and Raats (2006) about high workloads increasing snack
consumption. The data also shows third years snacked on chocolate the least 2+ times/once a day
(Figure 6), supporting the theory that academic stress and a university setting may impact
snacking habits.
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
Often (1-2) Mid (3-4) Rare (5-6)
Final Years' Health Band Snack Consumption
Green - "Healthy" Orange - "Middle" Red - "Unhealthy"
16


Figure 6 Frequency of Chocolate Consumption by Academic Year
Despite higher educated students generally having a high knowledge and literacy level and the
high proportion of food student respondents, it was still found that fruit consumption varied
greatly between respondents, with some eating it often (53.59%) and some rarely (17.13%). Fruit
was mentioned numerous times in the snacking survey (Figure 10 & Appendix 2) when
respondents were asked what they considered a healthy snack to be and thereby, showing they
do know fruit is a healthy snack option, but some still decide not to consume it as one. There was
little variation between first years and final years (shown in Figure 7), with 7.12% more final years
consuming fruit 2+ times a day than first years, but still respondents from both groups never
consume fruit as a snack.

Figure 7 Frequency of Fruit Consumption in First Years and Fourth Years

0.00%
10.00%
20.00%
30.00%
40.00%
50.00%
60.00%
2+ A Day Once A Day 2-3 Times A Week Once A Week Less Than Once A
Week/Occasionally
Never
Chocolate Consumption Frequency by Academic Year
1st Yr 2nd Yr 3rd Yr 4th Yr
0.00%
10.00%
20.00%
30.00%
40.00%
50.00%
60.00%
First Years Fourth Years
Fruit
2+ A Day
Once A Day
2-3 Times A Week
Once A Week
Less Than Once A
Week/Occasionally
Never
17

Although the Snack Foods Market Report 2012 (Hughes, 2013) showed a rising trend of indulgent
snack foods such as pretzels and popcorn, the results from the food category breakdown showed
that popcorn/pretzels was one of the least popular categories, with 91.16% of total respondents
consuming them rarely (50.83% never). There was also very little variation between first and
final years (Figure 8). The evidence shows people are tending to stick to their basic, less
adventurous snacking ways, unlike the snack market report predicted. This may be due to student
budget constraints and the high price of indulgent snack products, or due to their need for
comfort and known foods, relating to high stress levels (Shephard and Raats, 2006) and snacking
for comfort (Immink, 2013). This may change in the future once the predicted trend has a chance
to reach a larger audience, but finances may always be an issue for the student market.

Figure 8 - Frequency of Popcorn/Pretzels Consumption in First Years and Fourth Years
Similarly, the results for nuts (Figure 9) showed a lenience towards less often consumption, with
53.57% of first years and around 33.8% of final years never consuming them. A higher proportion
of fourth/final years consumed nuts more frequently than first years; 45.07% final years and
32.39% first years consuming them less than once a week/occasionally. This skew suggests a
growth in snack variety with age. This may be due to the high price of nuts noted in the snack
market report (Hughes, 2013) and similar to popcorn/pretzels (Figure 8), indulgent snacks may
not be within the price range of students on a limited budget. Final years may also have a slightly
higher budget due to savings accumulated during their previous paid work placement year,
possibly explaining the higher level of consumption. However, loans and lack of current work still
pose financial constraints. It could be an area for further research, investigating other aspects of
the student lifestyle which may have an effect on snacking habits, e.g. sleep deprivation (Heath, et
al., 2012), lack of cooking skills and financial constraints.
0.00%
10.00%
20.00%
30.00%
40.00%
50.00%
60.00%
First Years Fourth Years
Popcorn/Pretzels
2+ A Day
Once A Day
2-3 Times A Week
Once A Week
Less Than Once A
Week/Occasionally
Never
18


Figure 9 - Frequency of Nuts Consumption in First Years and Fourth Years
5.1.3. What Do Students Consider a Healthy Snack to Be?
Infographics have been created using the qualitative data recorded in the snacking survey to
better display the recurring themes mentioned by the respondents (Figures 10, 11 & 12); the full
script for each open ended question can be found in Appendix 2.
When asked what the students thought a healthy snack was, the response showed numerous
recurring words and themes; fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds, low fat, salt and sugar, high in
vitamins and minerals, low calorie, apples, good for you and nutritious. The foods that were
repeatedly mentioned by name were apples, grapes, bananas; all of which are fruits that are
simple to eat and require little preparation (Figure 10). This was reflected in the snacking survey
(Figure 7), which showed that the respondents did consume fruit, but the frequency varied
between respondents. This shows that most students are aware of what a healthy snack is and
their benefits, but many still choose to snack unhealthily.

Figure 10 - What is a Healthy Snack? - Word Infographic

0.00%
10.00%
20.00%
30.00%
40.00%
50.00%
60.00%
First Years Fourth Years
Nuts
2+ A Day
Once A Day
2-3 Times A Week
Once A Week
Less Than Once A
Week/Occasionally
Never
19

5.1.4. Why Do Students Snack? Everyday Vs. Stressed
The participants were asked why they usually snack (Figure 11), looking at both everyday
motivations for snacking and for a comparison to why people snack when they are stressed. The
responses revealed recurring themes across all year groups and genders. Boredom, hunger and
stress were popular across the board, as well as a meal replacement or addition due to lack of
time for a full meal or not eating enough in their meals, leading to hunger and their need for
energy while working. These themes were identified in the literature review by Wansink, et al.,
(2010) and Shephard and Raats (2006).

Figure 11 - Why Do You Usually Snack? - Word Infographic
How and why people snack while academically stressed showed consistencies with the usual
snacking habits of the respondents, but included some other themes (Figure 12). Assignments and
revision taking up time was a larger issue, leading to skipping meals, using snacks as an excuse for
a break and eating for comfort or to feel better. They also reported that the type of snacks
consumed when stressed reduced in healthiness, choosing foods such as chocolate, biscuits and
crisps; no foods mentioned in Figure 10 as a healthy snack. This reflected several studies
appraised in the literature review, including Shephard and Raats (2006) and Oliver and Wardle
(1999), who showed the effect high workload periods have on eating habits; both meals and
snacks.
20


Figure 12 - Academic Stress Snacking - How/why? - Word Infographic
5.1.5. How Does Academic Stress Impact Snacking?
When asked how respondents perceive their general snacking habits, 46.66% felt their snacking
was of an average healthiness (similar across all years), 31.49% said unhealthy and only 21.54%
said healthy, showing a skew towards unhealthy snacking overall. Respondents were asked how
they felt academic stress impacted the quantity and healthiness of their snacking habits. The
majority showed a highly significant increase in quantity (p0.001) and decreasing healthiness
(p<=0.001). This reflected findings in Figures 6 & 12 and past research relating to changes in
snacking behaviour due to stress and high workload periods (Oliver and Wardle, 1999 and
Serlachius, et al., 2007). There were, as expected, respondents who went against the majority,
consuming less and healthier snacks when stressed, echoing the Roemmich, et al. (2002) stress
eating paradox.
The percentage of respondents who increased snack quantity in relation to academic stress rose
steadily through the academic years from first to final year (Figure 14). A significant change in
snacking quantity (Mann-Whitney, p0.04) and healthiness (Mann-Whitney, p0.04) can be
seen from first year to final year. First, second and final years all showed the same trend with an
increase in quantity consumed and a decrease in snack healthiness. This change was most
pronounced for final years, who showed a highly significant decrease in the healthiness of their
snack choices (Z-Test, p0.01) when compared to first years, and a highly significant increase (Z-
Test, p0.008) in the quantity of snacks consumed. This variation may be due to the perceived
higher stakes of a final year stressor compared to one in first year, leading to a higher level of
influential stress as a result. Third years were the only academic year who showed a higher
percentage of respondents who decreased the quantity of snacks compared to showing no
change. This may be due to them working full time away from University on placement, having
fewer academic stressors or because of the small number of respondents in this year group.
Comparing placement students to full time students may be an interesting area for further
research.
21


Figure 13 - Academic Stress and Snack Healthiness


Figure 14 - Academic Stress and Snack Quantity
5.1.5. Gender, Academic Stress & Snacking
When gender is broken down, the trend reflects that of the overall survey, with the majority of
both men and women showing a decrease in healthiness and an increase in quantity. However, of
men and women, more men tended to see no change in healthiness (8.3%) (Figure 15) and quality
(10.26%) (Figure 16) than women. This may be due to women being more affected by stress than
men or that when women are stressed, their diet is affected, particularly though snack type foods,
whereas men are affected though different outlets and foods. Wansink and Sangerman (2000)
found that women tended to choose comfort foods such as chocolate and cookies, whereas men
chose pizza, steak, and casserole; foods which would not necessarily be included in a snacking
study, once again blurring the lines between meals and snacks with cross-classification explored in
the literature review (Hayes, et al., 2010). This supports the idea that when stressed, men change
the foods they consume as a meal rather than altering their snacking, explaining the variance and
reflected in the higher proportion of women who increase the quantity of snacks they consume. It
can also be seen that more women increased the healthiness of their snacks, showing that
women may make more conscious efforts to eat healthier than men even when academically
stressed.
0.00% 10.00% 20.00% 30.00% 40.00% 50.00% 60.00% 70.00% 80.00%
Decrease
No Change
Increase
Effect of Academic Stress on Healthiness of Snacks
First Years Second Years Third Years Final Years Total Average %
0.00% 10.00% 20.00% 30.00% 40.00% 50.00% 60.00% 70.00% 80.00% 90.00%
Decrease
No Change
Increase
Effect of Academic Stress on
Quantity of Snacks
First Years Second Years Third Years Final Years Total Average %
22



Figure 15 - Academic Stress and Snack Healthiness by Gender


Figure 16 - Academic Stress and Snack Quantity by Gender
5.2. Snacking Diary
Five students completed a snacking diary for the week of an academic stressor. All students had
an assignment due for submission on the week of completion. One additional snacking diary was
completed by a student, however, the diary was not filled in to completion and as such, will not
be included in this study. The results showed both variation and similarities depending on the
individuals natural snacking habits. Similarities noticed throughout the five diaries showed trends
in timing, occasion frequency, location of both consumption and purchase and reasons behind
snacking. There was also variation in consumption and stress levels in the days leading up to their
academic stressor. Due to the relatively small size of the pilot study sample, the data collected
may not be representative of the full student body. It does, however, provide supporting evidence
for the data collected in the student snacking survey, which used a larger sample size, as well as
provide a more detailed look into the snacking habits of students.
5.2.1. Snacking Food Type
The snacks recorded in the snacking diaries can be found in Figure 17 grouped into categories and
by frequency, showing that chocolate was the most consumed snack type in the week completed
with 19 chocolate snacks were consumed, followed by fruit and vegetables (16), dairy (11);
supporting findings by Silvis (2002), and cake (8). These results appear to contradict those
recorded in the student survey, showing some of the most rarely consumed snacks in the survey
0.00% 10.00% 20.00% 30.00% 40.00% 50.00% 60.00% 70.00%
Decrease
No Change
Increase
Effect of Academic Stress on
Healthiness of Snacks by Gender
WOMEN MEN
0.00% 10.00% 20.00% 30.00% 40.00% 50.00% 60.00% 70.00% 80.00%
Decrease
No Change
Increase
Effect of Academic Stress on
Quantity of Snacks by Gender
WOMEN MEN
23

being some of the most common snacks consumed daily in the snacking diary, such as nuts, seeds
and cake; this may be due to the small size of the sample and the demographic of respondents
(gender, year group, course area). Nuts received a high proportion of never responses (Figure 9)
when students were asked how frequently they consume them as a snack; a large difference
when compared with the snacking diary results. Chocolate consumption matched the results from
the snacking survey, reflecting the popularity shown and lack of never responses in the snacking
survey, as well as fruit and vegetable consumption, making the survey responses more reliable.

Figure 17 - Snacking Diary - Snack Types Consumed
Comparing food types consumed with the stress levels recorded for each day showed that snacks
consumed on days with stress levels more than usual consisted of a higher proportion of
unhealthy foods, including chocolate (33%), cake (13%), biscuits (13%), crisps (7%), leftover
takeaway (7%), wine (7%) and doughnuts (7%), with only one portion of fruit included in the snack
list. A total of 14 snacks were consumed between the five participants, including 29% of a large
portion size, 36% average and 36% small, graded depending on the quantity noted by the
respondent and an energy density related self-defined portion size for each snack type (e.g. 1
medium banana = average). Many snacks were also purchased impulsively from convenience
locations (36%) instead of planned from a supermarket (64%), supporting the study findings by
Honkanen, et al., (2012) in Norway. On days with a stress level less than usual showed only
three average size snacks were consumed between the participants; fruit, tortilla wrap and
cheese. These snacks were all pre-planned purchases from a supermarket shop, showing that a
higher frequency of unhealthy snacks are impulsively purchased and consumed when stressed
(Connor and Armitage, 2002).
5.2.2. Snacking Times
The snacking diary (Appendix 3) asked the participants to note the approximate time they
consumed each snack to gain an insight into what time of day students tended to snack. The
results showed that most people snacked at intermittent periods throughout the day. When the
approximate times of snacks consumed in all five snacking diaries were amalgamated to form a
timeline (Figure 18), peaks can be seen demonstrating where the most frequent snacking
occasions took place. A total of 67 snacking occasions occurred between the five participants over
five days recorded.
0
2
4
6
8
10
12
14
16
18
20
Snacking Diary - Snack Types
24


Figure 18 - Snacking Diary Result - Snacking Occasions Timing
The results showed that the most frequent eating time was 4pm, followed closely by 8pm and
11am (Figure 18). These eating times correlate with the study breaks between lectures and the
end of the university day, as well as a high frequency of consumption during the evening, which is
more spread out perhaps due to peoples varying schedules after University. The high frequency
trend between the times of 8pm and 10pm may demonstrate a period of high boredom,
television viewing and where no more meals are scheduled to be consumed that day, reflecting
research undergone by Thomson, et al. (2008).
When looking at the type of snacks consumed (colour coded by category as in Figure 17) in
relation to time, it can be seen from the timeline in Table 5 that there was no specific
consumption time for each snack type. However, chocolate was a popular choice of snack both
earlier in the day and at night, compared to fruit which was a popular snack for the late morning
period and early afternoon, perhaps due to its proximity to lunch and the need for a lighter snack
close to a meal. Dairy, on the other hand, was mostly consumed around 4pm and late evening;
this may be due to availability and temperature issues associated with transporting chilled items
to University. It should also be noted that products such as eggs and alcohol were included in
some of the snacking diaries, blurring the line between the definition of snacks and other food
products, reflecting similar difficulties faced in the literature review (Section 2.2) in establishing a
unanimous definition for what a snack product is.



0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
0
7
:
4
5
0
8
:
1
5
0
8
:
4
5
0
9
:
1
5
0
9
:
4
5
1
0
:
1
5
1
0
:
4
5
1
1
:
1
5
1
1
:
4
5
1
2
:
1
5
1
2
:
4
5
1
3
:
1
5
1
3
:
4
5
1
4
:
1
5
1
4
:
4
5
1
5
:
1
5
1
5
:
4
5
1
6
:
1
5
1
6
:
4
5
1
7
:
1
5
1
7
:
4
5
1
8
:
1
5
1
8
:
4
5
1
9
:
1
5
1
9
:
4
5
2
0
:
1
5
2
0
:
4
5
2
1
:
1
5
2
1
:
4
5
2
2
:
1
5
2
2
:
4
5
2
3
:
1
5
2
3
:
4
5
0
0
:
1
5
Snacking Ocassion Time Frequency
Frequency
25

Table 5 - Snacking Diary - Snacks by Time Consumed
Time Snack
08:00 Advent Chocolate
08:00 Kettle Chips
08:30 Advent Chocolate
09:00 Advent Chocolate
09:00 Grapes
10:00 Banana
10:30 Advent Chocolate
10:45 Almonds
11:00 Advent Chocolate
11:00 Mini Chocolate Snowman
11:00 Doughnut
11:00 Banana
11:00 Orange
11:30 Grapes
12:00 Tortilla Wrap
12:00 Mini Chocolate Snowman
00:00 Honey
12:00 Goats Cheese
13:00 Banana
13:30 Almonds
14:00 Yoghurt
14:00 Seeds
14:00 Marshmallow Tea Cake
14:00 Apple
14:00 Apple
14:15 Banana
15:00 Carrot Cake
15:00 Apple
15:00 Double-decker Chocolate
16:00 Cheesecake
16:00 Oreo
16:00 Dried Strawberries
16:00 Tortilla Wrap
16:00 Chocolate
16:00 Pantone
16:00 Chocolate
16:00 Banana
16:00 Chocolate Coffee Cake
16:15 Marshmallow
16:15 Dried Fruit
16:15 Nuts
16:30 Beef Sandwich
16:30 Marshmallow Tea Cake
16:30 Bread
16:30 Cheese Spread
16:30 Granola
16:30 Yoghurt
16:30 Greek Cherry Yoghurt
17:00 Cheese
17:00 Banana
17:30 Mince Pie
18:00 Wine
18:45 Fish Pie
19:00 Ham
19:30 Poppadum
20:00 Chocolates
20:00 Cadbury's Chocolate
20:00 Biscuit
20:00 Apple
20:00 Chocolate Squares
20:00 Crme Caramel Pot
20:30 Chocolate
20:30 Yoghurt
20:30 Custard Doughnut
21:00 Jam Sponge
21:00 Chocolate Cookie
21:00 Left over Chinese
21:00 Butter
21:00 Toast
21:30 Oats
21:30 Soya Yoghurt
21:30 Muller rice (apple strudel)
22:00 Galaxy Chocolate
22:00 Peanut Butter
22:00 Peanut Butter
22:00 Boiled Egg
00:00 Banana
26

5.2.3. Snacking Locations Purchase and Consumption
The participants were asked to note both the location where they purchased the snacks, as well
as the location where they were consumed (Figures 19 and 20). The most frequently noted
location for consumption was at home. Some participants gave more detail as to the location,
recording that the snack was consumed in bed or in front of the television. This correlates with
research found while reviewing this topic which showed snacks are often consumed in front of
the television and at home while distracted, tired or bored, otherwise known as grazing
(Thomson, et al., 2008 and Wansink, et al., 2010). It also corresponds with the snack occasion
timing (Figure 18), with frequent snacking occurring at times when people are at home. The next
most frequent location snacks were consumed was at University/in a lecture, correlating with the
snacking timeline in Figure 18, as well as existing research into irregular work hours (Heath, et al.,
2012) and the need for energy during high work periods (Chapelot, 2011) often satiated through
snacking.

Figure 19 - Snacking Diary Results - Snack Consumption Location
Participants were also asked where snacks were bought (Figure 20). Unlike the study conducted in
a Norwegian University by Honkanen, et al., (2012), the data shows that most snacks were
purchased in the supermarket and were as a result, planned and not all impulse buys. Some were
also purchased at University, convenience shops, vending machines or takeaway locations. These
results may be skewed by the course the students who participated were from, as the majority
were from a food related course and therefore have a higher level of nutrition knowledge than
some other students. It can be noted, however, that many of the unplanned snacks consumed
were of a higher energy density than those planned, correlating with research undertaken by
Dallmeyer, et al. (2012). This may be due to the limited range of healthier snack options available
on-campus (McArthur, et al., 2012) and in smaller convenience shops compared to a larger
supermarket. It may also be due to the need for high energy foods during study, as well as
impulse buying based on hunger, comfort and taste compared to long term benefit and nutrition
needs.
Home/Bed/Tv
69%
Lecture/Uni
15%
Transport/Walking
7%
Friends House
4%
Caf
3%
Work
2%
SNACKING LOCATION - CONSUMED
27


Figure 20 - Snacking Diary Results - Snack Purchase Location
5.2.4. Snacking Occasion Frequency
Snacking frequency was then analysed by looking at the mean number of snacking occasions per
day. The findings correlated with that of Dallmeyer, et al., (2012) showing a mean snacking
frequency of 2.68 occasions per day. Snacking variation between participants may be due to
personal habits, an increase in stress levels due to the academic deadline in the week recorded or
due to the time period conducted being close to the Christmas holiday period. Participants who
skipped meals also tended to snack more frequently, possibly to compensate, which correlates
with research found about meals in relation to snacking (Savige, et al., 2007).
There was a trend of snacking more than usual in the days leading up to the academic stressor
for each participant. Three participants with an assignment due in at the end of the week all
snacked more than usual on at least one day before the deadline, with the rest remaining
average. This day was day 2 or 3 and tended to be one with a long period of free time which the
students may have utilised for an extended period of assignment work. The one other student
with a deadline due at the end of the week showed no high stress levels, suggesting the required
assignment was completed prior to the diary completion week. In comparison, the one student
with an assignment due in the middle of the week ate more than usual on all three days leading
up to the deadline/stressor, returning to average for the two days after the stressor; this reflects
this trend, showing a correlation between stress and snacking.
5.2.5. Reason for Snacking
Each day, the participants were asked why they snacked that day. The results showed a variety of
reasons with some recurring themes (Figure 21). Hunger and small/late/early meals were the
most common reasons given, followed by many reasons which reflect those found in the
literature review, such as boredom, sugar boost and emotional comfort eating (Section 2.3).
These reasons reflect those collected in the snacking survey, showing similar themes such as
hunger, meal replacement/supplementation, boredom and comfort (Figures 11 & 12). It also
highlighted additional themes such as social gatherings, grazing in front of the television and
visual temptation. This shows health is not a driving factor when deciding on snacks; although
78%
6%
4%
3%
3%
3%
2% 1%
SNACKING LOCATION - PURCHASED
Supermarket
Farmers Market/Show
Friend/Gift
Convenience Shop
Coffee Shop
Takeaway
Vending Machine
Uni Shop
28

higher education students should have more experience and knowledge gained with age, they are
actually still driven by other factors which are mainly emotion or time limit based.


Figure 21 - Snacking Diary - Reasons for Snacking
6.0. Conclusion of Findings
In conclusion, the higher education lifestyle does have an effect on the snacking habits of
students. Students do not stick to the snacks defined in the snack foods market report (Hughes,
2013) and snack on many foods not industrially defined as a snack. Many students identified
snacks as food eaten between meals and not in relation to quantity or food type. All food
categories provided in the snacking survey were consumed by at least one student and as such,
any food product and category has/can be consumed as a snack by University students. While
some snack products are popular amongst students (chocolate, fruit, dairy, cake), most foods
were consumed on a daily basis by a number of students. On average, the healthiness of snacks
consumed when academically stressed was found to decrease and the quantity found to increase;
similar across both genders and academic years. It was identified that students snacked for a
number of reasons while studying at Harper Adams University; hunger, stress (Shephard and
Raats, 2006), skipped meals, boredom, a sugar boost, comfort and many other lifestyle related
influences.

Hunger
30%
Late/Early/Small
/Skipped Meal
24%
Boredum
8%
Curiosity/Looked Nice/Wanted
8%
Sad/Emotional/Comfort
6%
Social Gathering
6%
Offered By Someone/Free
5%
Assignment Work/Busy
5%
Distracted/TV
5%
Sugar Boost
3%
REASONS FOR SNACKING
29

7.0. Future Research
Future research which could be undertaken to expand the findings from this study include:
1. A comprehensive four-year longitudal snacking survey study, following the snacking
habits of higher education students from start to finish, looking at stress levels, lifestyle
changes, snacking and dietary patterns throughout their University career to identify
changes.
2. A breakdown of the type of academic stressor and their unique impact on snacking habits
3. Repeat of research at other Universities to see if Harper Adams findings correlate in
different University settings, e.g. rural, urban, campus based, non-campus, courses
4. The impact of cooking ability, access to food, and financial constraints on snacking habits
5. Research into the relationship between snacking and meals in higher education students
to identify changes in overall food behaviour and see if academic stress impacts food
consumption overall or snacking alone, and if so, in what way?
6. A comprehensive snacking diary study of University students to identify dietary patterns

By doing this, a more rounded image of the way the University lifestyle impacts the snacking
habits of students can be formed and trends highlighted.

30

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