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Rodgers

Lauren Rodgers
Professor C. Douglass
UWRT 1101
24 November 2015
Are Students Eating Habits Influenced by their University?
Everyone has heard of the infamous freshman fifteen, the fifteen pounds most
every student is expected to gain in their first year in college. These days the freshman
fifteen seems to be turning into the freshman thirty or forty plus. What is the cause for
this drastic increase in weight gain among first year college students? The answer lies
within their food choices.
There are multiple food choices to make on a university campus; cooking, fast
food, or university dinning. At the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, there are
multiple options for all. Some including Wendys, Bojangles, Panda Express, Crown,
South Village, and other fast food options here and there. Students also have the option
to cook their own foods in their dorms or apartments. What option is the most popular to
students when considering cost and health benefits? With the addition of fast food chains
in universities in the past two decades or so, students have more, and often less healthy,
options for dinning. No longer is a student restricted to the dinning rooms solely, the
only option for older generations when they attended college. The installation of popular,
faster, and cheaper food has lead to the increase in weight of students in college.
Attending a University is one of the first moments in life where a student is
separated from their family and or loved ones. They now have to take care of themselves
and realize that no one is standing over their shoulder telling them what they should be

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doing at all hours of the day. This newfound freedom comes with choices we all have to
make. These choices are unlimited and include, but are not limited to, what and when
should I eat and when should I go to bed. Unfortunately many of these decisions one
makes on their own while in college are not the best for them. Students know, or at least
should know that what they are eating is not the healthiest foods that they could be
eating, but they know it is usually the fastest and cheapest food they have access too.
Strong evidence suggests that the college environment is con- conducive to
overconsumption because of the ready availability of energy-dense foods, which may be
contributing to the increased prevalence of obesity. In addition, Knaust and Foster found
that college students have difficulty in accurately selecting appropriate serving sizes
(Kicklighter).According to another study by Carol Wilkinson, most students think that
nutrition is the key component to living a healthy lifestyle. While they are not entirely
wrong, good nutrition is an excellent starting point to a healthy lifestyle, is it also built on
other factors.

In the study few other students said that a healthy lifestyle was a

combination of healthy eating, emotional balance, and exercising.


Students also said that being healthier allowed them to be more focused on school
work and have higher self esteem than students who are not. Social factors also play a
huge role in what a student does and does not do. Peer pressure can be either negative or
positive. Negative peer pressure could mean eating the wrong types of food, eating too
much, or working out too hard. Positive peer pressures could include the influence of
healthier diet choices and scheduling time for workouts together so that there is healthy
competition together (Wilkinson).
Many studies conducted in the United States show a decline in the levels of

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exercise that a college student gets a day. In a study conducted by Erica Woekel, only
43.6% of the 34,208 college students surveyed met the adult physical activity
recommendations of the American College of Sports Medicine and American Heart
Association (Woekel). Exercise in an important factor in maintaining good health and if
college students are missing out on daily exercise and eating the wrong types of food, it is
no wonder why obesity is on the rise across college campuses. Another problem lays in
the fact that many college students have never had to manage their own portion sizes or
read a nutrition label.
All these factors contribute to the rise of obesity on college campuses across the
nation. Universities should start offering healthier restaurants and meals on their dinning
hall menus in order to reduce the amount of calories and fats that a student can consume
in a single setting. Exercise programs should also be encouraged. The University can
make curiculiums for each major that require one to two physical activity courses in order
to graduate.

Observations (Prospector and Crown)


Lunch and dinner hours are when prospector, crown, cone, south village dinning,
and the union are at their busiest. For lunch on Friday, the 20 th, I sat in prospector for an
hour and a half, observing where people went to eat and what they had on their plates. I
also vaguely observed their body composition to see if there was a correlation in body
size to food choice. On a Wednesday afternoon between 10:45 and 12:15 pm I sat in the
corner of Prospector between Chick-fil-a, Feistys and the door to Prospector Caf. I
took data from the students and the occasional faculty member sitting in the dinning area.

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In an hour and a half at prospector I observed the majority of the population


eating Chick-fil-a, one of the least healthy options we have on campus. Despite Chickfil-a having a lot of fried unhealthy foods, every day there is always a line wrapping
around prospector. In prospector caf I saw the majority of students and faculty with a
salad or Momma Leones, spaghetti or chicken parmesan, similar items health-wise.

Field Notes
At 10:45 I enter Prospector through the double doors near Chick-fil-a and decend
the stairs to pic out a spot to observe from. I choose a spot where I can see what people
have ordered and what they look like. At 10:45 there are not too many people at
prospector yet because class is just letting out. Around 11:00 more people start filling in
and most tend to stand in the Chick-fil-a line. At 11:02 a large group of sorority sisters
stand in the Chick-fil-a line and gossip about the latest in greek life gossip and the classes
they just got out of or are going to after this. At 11:05 a large male and his friend enter
the fiestys line and order two hotdogs each. The sorority girls from the Chick-fil-a line
choose a cluster of seats near me and almost all of them have an original chicken
sandwich or chicken wrap with fries and a drink other than water.
At 11:08, a group of five students to my right enter prospector caf and go to the
Momma Leones line to order pizzas and spaghetti. At 11:15 the line to Chick-fil-a is
increasing in size and the fiestys line does not come close to comparing to it. A large
group of students pass by me, a group of ten, who have chick-fil-a, a salad and more
sandwiches and feisty melts and hotdogs. At 11:20 another large group of students leaves

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the prospector caf with salsaritas and momma leones. Six more students leave with
salsaritas and 2 with momma leones.
From 11:30 to 12:00 I spotted numerous Chick-fil-a patrons walk by with
salads, wraps, and sandwiches. Six more people order feisty melts and thirty more
people order hot dogs. In the final fifteen minutes at prospector I see more students walk
out with a salad from the cafs salad bar and more Chick-fil-a sandwiches and wraps.

Statistical Data
Students who had Chick-fil-a: 198/261 or 75.8%
Students at Chick-fil-a with friend chicken sandwich: 173/198 or 87.2%
Students at Chick-fil-a with chicken cool wrap: 15/198 or 7.57%
Students at Chick-fil-a with a salad: 10/198 or 5.05%
Students who had Fiestys: 40/261 or 15.4%
Students who had a Fiestys hot dog: 32/40 or 80%
Students who had a Fiestys melt: 8/40 or 20%
Students seen at prospector caf: 23/261 or 8.8
Students with a salad: 2/23 or 8.69%
Students with Momma Leones: 13/23 or 56.53%
Students with Salsaritas: 8/23 or 34.78%

Observations (Crown)
Crown is one of the two universities dinning halls. The food items include pizza,
desserts, salad, and a specialized entre for the day. On Monday the 23 rd, I sat in crown

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for forty-five minutes documenting the meals of the people who passed me. Crown is a
buffet style eatery, which means a student may eat whatever they want for just one swipe.
Fifty-three people passed me within the span of forty-five minutes and I recorded
everything they had on their plates.

Data
Students who had pizza (two or more slices) 35/53 or 66.03%
Students who had the chicken entre (with vegetables) 3/53 or 6.66%
Students who had the chicken entre (with mac and cheese) 7/53 or 13.20%
Students with salad only 4/53 or 7.54%
Students with salad and chicken entre 4/53 or 7.54%

Conclusion
The results show an overwhelming of majority students are making food choices
that are full of fat and calories. The students who had the food with more calories tended
to be a little heavier in weight than the students who had the healthier options, who
tended to be lighter in weight and wore workout clothes. My findings help support the
hypothesis that available restaurants help influence our decisions in what we eat, even if
we know it is not healthy for us. In order to avoid the increasing rate of obesity students
need to start evaluating nutrition labels and keeping track of calories taken in and burned
in order to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle.

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Works Cited
Kicklighter, JR, VJ Koonce, CA Rosenbloom, and NE Commander. "College Freshmen
Perceptions of Effective and Ineffective Aspects of Nutrition Education." Journal
of American College Health : J of Ach. 59.2 (2010): 98-104. Print.
Wilkinson, Carol, Todd Pennington, David Barney, Barbara Lockhart, Ron Hager, and
Keven Prusak. "Pete Students' Perceptions of a Healthy and Active Lifest`yle."
Physical Educator. 71.4 (2015). Print.
Woekel, Erica, Vicki Ebbeck, Rebecca Y. Concepcion, Tucker Readdy, Kin-Kit Li, Hyo
Lee, and Bradley J. Cardinal. "Physical Activity, Nutrition, and Self-Perception
Changes Related to a University "lifetime Fitness for Health" Curriculum."
Physical Educator. 70.4 (2013): 374-394. Print.