April 26, 2013
Undergraduate students want nutrition information displayed in campus dining halls, and will use that information to make food choices, according to a study published in Health Education Journal. The study can guide university and college policies about providing nutrition information labels in dining halls.
Researchers conducted a survey of 487 undergraduate students at an urban university. The survey was conducted over a three-month period during the 2009 – 2010 academic school year and asked students about their perceptions and use of nutrition labels in dining halls.
Ninety-eight percent of the students surveyed indicated that it was a good idea to make nutrition information available either online or in the dining halls for each meal. In addition, the majority of students said that nutrition information would impact their food choices. Most students reported that the calorie and ingredient information were the most important aspects of the nutrition information cards, followed by fat content.
Results of existing research on menu labeling, which is included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and requires chain restaurants to post calorie information on menus and menu boards, have been mixed. According to the authors, some studies have found that menu labeling promotes the ordering and consumption of lower-calorie foods while others have found no effect.
The researchers asserted that colleges and universities should consider implementing or maintaining nutrition labels in their dining halls. “As students try to navigate a new food environment filled with many different food choices and portion sizes, menu labels that provide nutrition information may be especially helpful for students,” said lead author Olivia Martinez.
The paper is co-authored by Olivia Martinez, Research Data Associate at New York University’s School of Medicine and former Yale University undergraduate student; Christina Roberto, PhD, Research Fellow at Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies and former Yale University doctoral student; Jane Kim, former Yale University undergraduate student; Marlene Schwartz, PhD, Rudd Center Acting Director; and Kelly Brownell, PhD, former Rudd Center Director.