The habitual meal and snacking patterns of university students in two countries and their use of vending machines

D Spanos, C R Hankey
Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics: the Official Journal of the British Dietetic Association 2010, 23 (1): 102-7

BACKGROUND: Dietary patterns and food choices in western and northern European countries can differ from those in countries that surround the Mediterranean basin. However, irregular meal patterns and the consumption of high-energy snacks tend to become common in most countries and their association with the prevalence of obesity has been examined in many studies. The first aim of the present study was to describe the habitual meal and snack intakes, including the use of vending machines, for two groups of first-year university students in two countries of different cultural backgrounds. The second aim was to explore the relationships between body mass index (BMI) and snacking for these two groups.

METHODS: One hundred and sixty first-year undergraduate university students from two defined universities in Greece (n = 80) and Scotland (n = 80) volunteered to complete a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ). The FFQ comprised 16 questions assessing their meal and snacking habits. Self-assessed height and weight data were collected.

RESULTS: The majority of the 160 students reported a BMI in the healthy range (<25 kg m(-2)). Overall, 26% of the students reported never consuming breakfast. More Scottish students (74%) used vending machines (P < 0.05). More Scottish students consumed chocolate bars and crisps than Greek students (41% and 34% versus 37.5% and 20%, respectively). Only the choice of chocolate bars from vending machines and the consumption of crisps and low fat yogurts were related to BMI (P < 0.05) for both groups.

CONCLUSIONS: University students living in different countries report similar dietary patterns but differ in their snacking habits. No relationships were found between BMI and snacking. There is a need to carry out research to further our understanding of this relationship.

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