The freshman 15 is more fact than myth. Part of the reason is the many unhealthy menu options available in college cafeterias -- not to mention the overabundance of convenience foods filled with preservatives that are staples in dormitories and apartments on college campuses throughout the country.
The Facts about Nutrition on College Campuses
In fact, a recent poll conducted by the International Food Information Council Foundation (and reported about in USA Today) discovered that most American adults (including college students) are finding it difficult to work a single serving of fruits or vegetables into their days -- much less the 4.5 to 5 servings the government recommends.
Making Changes Begins with Good Information
Some colleges, like City University of New York, are taking a stand by making healthier eating choices available in cafeterias, vending machines, and at meetings on campus. They began by assessing the kinds of options available to students then conducted a thorough nutrition survey to determine how students were currently eating and what influenced those eating habits.
Any college campus can adopt this easily and inexpensively with the use of online survey software to conduct the study. The wide availability of survey software makes it easier than ever to ask pressing questions in order to generate lasting change -- even on college campuses.
The truth is that many college students want to eat healthier, it's just that busy schedules, limited cafeteria and dining hall offerings, and lack of appeal from the few healthy choices available make unhealthier food choices the more attractive option. To change all this on college campuses, though, it's important to get the input of students first to find out why they aren't eating healthier and to discover what would make eating healthier more attractive to them.
Surveys Give Students a Voice
A good survey tool loaded with the right questions can help your college campus do its part to fight obesity. After all, good eating habits, become habits, which are hard to break. Starting college students on the journey to adulthood with a good foundation of nutritious food choices, options, and habits is a giant leap in the right direction.
Focus groups and administrative meetings can only present more nutritious options, but do very little to address whether or not those options will appeal to students or be a colossal waste of money for the university. The best way to go by far, is to simply ask the students what it would take to encourage them to make healthier meal choices and respond accordingly.
What Questions Should You Ask?
Keep the questions limited to the scope of the survey and focused on nutrition. Ask questions about how and where they eat as well as what they eat. These are a few great examples:
- Do you have dietary restrictions or special needs? (Diabetic, kosher, gluten-free, food allergies, vegan, etc.)
- Where do you eat? (List all on-campus dining options, fast food, home cooked, etc.)
- When do you eat? (What time of day do students eat?)
- Do you feel you're making healthy eating choices?
- What would it take to encourage healthier eating choices?
- Would (insert changes the university is considering) encourage you to eat healthier foods?
The bottom line is that surveys are effective tools for creating change. You simply need to combine the right questions with the right survey tool.