Date of Award

Spring 5-14-2016

Level of Access

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Food Science and Human Nutrition

Advisor

Adrienne A. White

Second Committee Member

Rodney Bushway

Third Committee Member

Susan S. Sullivan

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to determine if green eating (GE), defined as environmentally conscious eating, in college students had an impact on BMI, health behavior, fruit and vegetable intake, physical activity, and perceptions of the campus environment. This was a cross-sectional study of undergraduate and graduate students (n=190) at the University of Maine. The GE Survey was used to determine GE stage of change; participants were classified as either pre-action (precontemplation, contemplation, preparation) (n=113) or post-action (action, maintenance) (n=77). The GE Survey was also used to assess GE behavior, decisional balance, and self-efficacy. A de novo health behavior scale was used to measure frequency of healthful behavior (10 (never) to 50 (frequently)), including looking for healthy foods and participating in on-campus health programs. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) Screener was used to assess fruit and vegetable intake, the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ) was used to assess physical activity in MET (Metabolic Equivalents of Task)-minutes, and a de novo environmental perceptions scale (0 (strongly disagree) to 100 (strongly agree)) was used to assess students’ perceptions of the campus environmental supports for healthful behavior, including availability of healthy foods on campus and presence of policies to promote healthy eating. Statistical analyses included chi-square and two-way ANOVA tests were used to compare pre- and post-action stages of change by gender. Significance was set at p

Overall, the participants were mostly female (67.9%) and almost all were white (94.6%). The mean BMI was 24.2±4.9, with no difference between pre- and post-action. Participants in the post-action stage of change had higher scores than pre-action for GE behavior (p=0.0001), and were more confident in their ability to practice GE at school (p=0.0001) and at home (p=0.005). Post-action participants also placed greater importance on pros of GE (p=0.0001) and less importance on cons of GE (p=0.001). Post-action participants had higher health behavior scores than pre-action (30.9±5.0 vs. 33.5±4.8) (p=0.001). Based on the NCI Screener, post-action participants had higher daily intake of fruits and vegetables (5.0±4.4 cups) compared to pre-action (2.9±2.4 cups) (p=0.0001). Post-action participants also engaged in more weekly vigorous physical activity (1439.7±1475.7 MET-minutes) than pre-action (984.0±1367.2 MET-minutes) (p=0.003), and more total physical activity (2662.9±1781.5 MET-minutes) than pre-action (2237.11±2104.5 MET-minutes) (p=0.012). For perceptions of the campus environmental supports for healthful behavior, there was an interaction between GE stage of change and gender; males in the pre-action stage had more positive perceptions (65.2±12.5) and females in the pre-action stage had more negative perceptions (55.5±9.6), whereas males and females in the post-action stage had similar perceptions (males: 59.3±12.0; females: 60.4± 11.4) (p=0.047).

College students who were green eaters engaged in more healthful behavior, consumed more cups of fruits and vegetables, and engaged in more physical activity than those who were not green eaters. Based on these results, increased awareness of GE may raise consciousness about the environmental impact of food choices and one’s own health behavior among college students. In the future, educating college students about GE may have an added benefit of promoting healthful behavior.

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