A study being conducted by professors and students in the dietics department at the University of Connecticut is focusing on helping students make smart choices when selecting what to eat, according to student researchers Amy Fasciano and Karley Krodel.
“Mindful Eating” is a 12-week program in which participants will receive daily nutritional messages each day during the week and is being spearheaded by director of the UConn dietics department, Ellen Shanley, and dietetic internship program director Jillian Wanik.
“The daily messages include basic nutrition and mindful eating information, in addition to recipes, supplemental readings, weekly polls questions and motivational pictures,” Fasciano said. “We hope that these supplemental materials and poll questions will improve participant engagement and participation to promote healthy eating.”
The daily messages will be sent through text message and Facebook in order to evaluate the effect of technological communication on motivating students to make healthy choices.
“Text messaging is more individualized with messages being sent individually to the participant,” Fasciano said. “Facebook consists of a private Facebook group in which participants can interact and communicate with other participants and like posts. We are examining whether communication virtually can have a positive influence on an individual’s eating behaviors.”
Fasciano said the study will be vital in helping college students to eat better given they are often most prone to over/undereating due to stress with school, schedules and extracurricular activities.
“Understanding mindful eating behaviors can help students, in addition to other age groups, to maintain a healthy weight, reduce emotional eating and binge eating, in addition to preventing chronic disease.”
A 2014 study in conjunction with Northwestern Medicine and Northeastern Illinois University revealed that a vast majority of college students are engaging in eating habits that increase their risk of disease later in life. More specifically, 95% of college students fail to eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables daily (a minimum of five servings a day).
The nonprofit organization Partnership for Healthier America has also started a Healthier Campus Initiative, which focuses on encouraging colleges and universities to implement a total of 23 out of 41 available healthy eating recommendations over a period of three years, according to Forbes Magazine.
PHA’s CEO, Nancy Roman, stressed that the program allows students to build more concrete eating habits that will ensure long-term health and wellness.
“College is an important time when people are still developing and also establishing habits for the rest of their lives,” Roman told Forbes.
Back at UConn, Fasciano and the other researchers hope to implement an app or texting system after the study to further help students lead healthier lives and grow accustomed to better eating habits.
“Nowadays, it may be hard for the public to find a time to attend a class, for example, so providing information through technology that can be read from the comfort of one’s home may prove to be beneficial in implementing these mindful techniques,” Fasciano said.
Students, faculty and staff alike are encouraged to sign up to participate in the study. Those interested can view more information and sign up online through the link provided.
Taylor Harton is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.