Snacking habits of first year students at University of Leeds revealed in study
The eating habits of first year university students can be explored in-depth for the first time as scientists track their food purchases through pre-paid cards.
Data scientists at the University of Leeds have analysed the habits of 835 anonymous students, building a picture of what they buy in the campus refectory and other outlets.
While previous studies have been based on honest food diaries, the scientists say this cannot always be relied upon and the new findings could be the best yet in determining an approach to healthy eating for students.
“Research has shown that adult eating habits take root early in adulthood,” said Dr Michelle Morris, academic fellow based at Leeds Institute for Data Analytics.
“So time spent at university is a great time to encourage healthy eating behaviours that could remain with them for life.”
The study followed the purchases of students aged 18 to 24 in their first semester from September, and the findings have been published in the British Journal of Nutrition.
It revealed student eating habits were clustered around seven dietary behaviours, such as vegetarians, dieters, carb lovers and snackers.
Dr Morris said those in the vegetarian category were the most healthful and snackers the least, adding: “Our analysis shows that although some students followed one dietary pattern throughout the semester many switched between them.
"Worryingly perhaps, the most popular move was from a dieter pattern, to the snacking pattern.”