Bound Volume Number
Honors Capstone Project
Date of Submission
Dr. Tonya Horacek
Dr. Lynn Brann
Nutrition Science and Dietetics
Sport and Human Dynamics
college dining hall, student nutrition perceptions
Capstone Prize Winner
Won Capstone Funding
Dietetics and Clinical Nutrition
The objective of this Capstone is to study the healthfulness of the college dining environment and compare students’ perceptions of dining hall healthfulness and their behaviors by their dieting status.
The methodology used in this Capstone included the distribution of a healthy campus survey to a convenience sample of students at Syracuse University. This survey assessed health-oriented perceptions of the environment and behaviors, meal intentions, height, weight, desired weight status, and demographics. This capstone focused on the perception of dining halls on campus. The dining hall audit tool assessed the healthfulness of foods and the supportiveness of the environment of the various dining venues on Syracuse University’s campus including sit down restaurants, fast food, delivery, and dining halls. Dining halls were the main focus in this study. Statistics used included: ANOVA, t-tests and Chi-squared tests. Significance was set at P < 0.05.
The hypothesis or prediction for this Capstone was that dieters (those trying/desiring to lose weight) would have more healthful eating behaviors and habits compared to non-dieters (those desiring to maintain their current weight). It was also hypothesized that dieters as compared to non-dieters would perceive the dining hall foods, as well as, environment to be healthier.
A sample of 306 students completed the survey. Dieters and non-dieters were significantly different by gender distribution, BMI, desired weight change, intention to be healthier, practicing healthy behaviors, and perception that there are healthy foods available in campus dining halls. Overall, dieters were women, had a higher BMI (3.6 units higher, P = 0.001) than non-dieters, and wanted to lose more weight (12.7 pounds more, P = 0.000). Dieters as compared to non-dieters practiced less healthy behaviors and did not perceive the dining hall environment as being as healthy. Dining venue audits showed that dining halls were the healthiest dining venue providing healthy food, as well as environmental supports to eat healthy, when compared to the other three dining venues. Dining halls scored on average 14 points higher than the other venues for healthfulness of food, and five points higher for environmental supports.
In conclusion, this study found that while dieters weigh more and wish to lose more weight than non-dieters, they are hindered by the fact that they do not perceive their environment as being conducive to health. This keeps dieters from practicing healthy eating behaviors, as evidenced by the lower meal behavior score. Research pertaining to students’ perceptions of their dining environment and how they are affected is important in order to help address ways in which environment can be changed to enable students to consume healthier foods.
Danckers, Emily, "Students’ Dietary Behaviors Related to Their Perception of the College Dining Environment" (2015). Syracuse University Honors Program Capstone Projects. 872.
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