An Exploratory study of compliance with dietary recommendations among college students majoring in health-related disciplines: application of the transtheoretical model

  • McArthur, Laura H. (Department of Dietetics, Fashion Merchandising, and Hospitality, Western Illinois University) ;
  • Pawlak, Roman (Department of Nutrition Science, East Carolina University)
  • Received : 2011.03.16
  • Accepted : 2011.12.10
  • Published : 2011.12.31


Compliance with food group and nutrient recommendations, and self-efficacy, stage of change, perceived barriers and benefits for healthy eating were assessed among a convenience sample of college students majoring in health-related disciplines. Dietary and psychosocial data were collected using three-day food records and scales, respectively. Means (SD), frequencies, and percents were calculated on all data, and logistic regressions were used to determine whether any of the psychosocial correlates predicted the stage of change for healthy eating. Noncompliance with food group recommendations ranged from 53% for the meat/meat alternates group to 93% for the vegetables/juice group, whereas noncompliance with nutrient recommendations ranged from 26% for cholesterol to 99% for potassium. A majority of students (57%) self-classified in the preaction and 40% in the action stages of change for eating healthy. The students' self-efficacy to eat healthy was highest in positive/social situations and lowest when experiencing emotional upset. The most important perceived barrier to healthy eating was that friends/roommates do not like to eat healthy foods, and the most important perceived benefit was that eating healthy foods provides the body with adequate nutrients. The difficult/inconvenient self-efficacy subscale predicted the stage of change for healthy eating. These students would benefit from interactive learning opportunities that teach how to purchase and prepare more whole grain foods, fruits, and vegetables, enhance their self-efficacy for making healthy food choices when experiencing negative emotions, and overcome perceived barriers to healthy eating.


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