Systematic Review of Dietary Interventions With College Students: Directions for Future Research and Practice

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Abstract

Objective:

To clarify directions for research and practice, research literature evaluating nutrition and dietary interventions in college and university settings was reviewed.

Design:

Systematic search of database literature.

Setting:

Postsecondary education.

Participants:

Fourteen research articles evaluating randomized controlled trials or quasi-experimental interventions targeting dietary outcomes.

Main Outcome Measures:

Diet/nutrition intake, knowledge, motivation, self-efficacy, barriers, intentions, social support, self-regulation, outcome expectations, and sales.

Analysis:

Systematic search of 936 articles and review of 14 articles meeting search criteria.

Results:

Some in-person interventions (n = 6) show promise in improving students' dietary behaviors, although changes were minimal. The inclusion of self-regulation components, including self-monitoring and goal setting, may maximize outcomes. Dietary outcomes from online interventions (n = 5) were less promising overall, although they may be more effective with a subset of college students early in their readiness to change their eating habits. Environmental approaches (n = 3) may increase the sale of healthy food by serving as visual cues-to-action.

Conclusions and Implications:

A number of intervention approaches show promise for improving college students' dietary habits. However, much of this research has methodological limitations, rendering it difficult to draw conclusions across studies and hindering dissemination efforts.

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