Increasing healthy eating behaviors among college students
Brace, Andrea Michelle
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This study analyzes the impact of a stealth nutrition intervention on increasing healthy eating behaviors among college students. A stealth intervention focuses on health behavior change via process motivation to change behavior without an explicit emphasis on health-related outcomes. The intervention was delivered through a 15-week, discussion-based seminar (n=29) that used contemporary readings to explore macro-scale influences on food, nutrition, and eating behavior. Two levels of control were used; a health-based course (n=114), and a non-health based course (n=48). The intervention was a modified replication study developed at Stanford University, and used a quasi-experimental, mixed-methods, pre-post design. The goal of the intervention was to improve healthy eating behaviors, including eating more fruits and vegetables, while eating less high-fat meat, high-fat dairy, processed foods and sweets. Surveys were administered at the beginning and end of the semester to all classes (n=191), and focus groups were conducted with intervention participants (n=28) at the end of the semester. Survey data included demographics, BMI, food purchasing and eating habits, and Stages of Change and self-efficacy measures. Quantitative data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and ANOVA. Focus group data were analyzed using constant comparative analysis. Survey findings indicate that intervention participants had statistically significant increases in purchasing local and organic produce, direct from the producer, and grass-fed beef. Additionally, significant increases in the beliefs in the importance of animal rights were detected. Results from the focus groups support these findings, with participants relating these changes to the themes discussed throughout the class. The results suggest that the stealth intervention was successful at promoting healthy eating behaviors among college students.