Being a young person leaving home after high school, off to college, is a huge transition in many unexpected ways. Planning your own meals, preparing your own food, selecting the foods you desire in a cafeteria or restaurant, establishing new eating routines is quite a difference for most after growing up in a household led by parents.
These newly acquired behaviors can affect food selection and consumption throughout our adult life. Often university students consume a lower amount of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fish and a higher consumption of fast foods, sugar, sodium, saturated fats and alcohol. Many of these unfavorable dietary behaviors persist throughout life.
A study in the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity, Changes in weight, physical activity, sedentary behavior and dietary intake during the transition to higher education: a prospective study., researchers concluded “…the transition to higher education is an at risk period for weight gain and unfavorable changes in health behaviors.” These researchers also discerned that interventions to prevent weight gain in colleges and universities should start early in high school or even sooner.
As physical educators, coaches and sports administrators much of the approach to education of student athletes is related to skill development and strength and conditioning. Subjects related to nutrition are not as prioritized or put forth with the same fervor.
Well-planned nutrition education programs designed to improve the understanding of nutritional principles is an important consideration in the overall development of our youth. Learning to read food labels with thorough explanation of the terms, statements, symbols and facts that appear on the labels and fronts of packaging contribute to the future dietary habits and behavior of young adults. Learning the process of shopping, preparing food and balancing a diet is an important part of fitness and an essential part of growth and development.
In the Journal of American Dietetic Association, College weight gain and behavior transitions: male and female differences., researchers found more than 25% of incoming students gained >2.3 kg body weight in an 8 week period!
This is one of the many many studies that examine weight changes among college students.
In Journal of Nutrition Behavior and Education. Weight and health behaviors from freshman through senior year of college. “Weight gain was common but variable among college students. Importantly, exercise and dietary patterns did not meet the recommended guidelines for many college students, which may have long-term health implications.”
Both young men and women are vulnerable to weight gain especially when leaving home venturing out on their own for the first time. Weight gain is linked to an increased risk of several chronic diseases and mortality as we age throughout one's life.
Making all aspects of nutrition such as food preparation, food selection, shopping and good nutritional habits an integral part of growing up and a significant part of high school schooling, would, should and could contribute to the future dietary habits and behavior of young adults. Healthier behaviors then would be more likely to remain throughout adulthood.