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Food Preference and Nutrition amongst College Students

A nutrient-rich diet helps college students to achieve and maintain a healthy body and mind. People obtain nutrients from the food they consume. Through the metabolic processes in the concerned body organs, there is absorption of the nutrients at a cellular level in the body. According to different studies on nutrition, it contributes to healthiness, wellbeing, customary growth and high eminence of life. When it comes to food consumption, various factors determine the occurrence of the process. One of the main factors being food preference. Food consumed by college students is majorly because of food preference especially depending on the cultural background of the students. People’s reasons for food consumption cuts out as a complex psychosocial process, which depends on the individual, time, and place. Most researchers agree that food preferences cultivate in early stages of life and are established by age 15. Later, food preferences become habitual.

College students are mainly on the transition from adolescence to young adults. During this stage of development, the peers experience various changes including their physical environment. These changes, which in turn determine the food preference factor, include moving away from home to college, changes in their peer group, financial accountabilities, and educational needs. In the course of the transition, college students interact and reside with people from different ethnicity. It is typical for an institution to have a combination of people from American culture, European, Middle East and even African culture. In this case, college students can embrace any of the eating habits from the new cultures. Various studies argue that the transition comes with young adults experiencing an increased need for independence and self-expression. In addition, factors such as familial factors, food supply and food availability will determine the food preference of most young adults in college. Accordingly, cultural and ethnicity factors remain major contributors towards food preference. These factors influence the young adults’ food preferences, which also affects the nutrition aspect of their meals.

Wansink, Cheney, and Chan (2003), argue that consumption of comfort foods evokes a psychosomatically contented and gratifying state for the consumer. Social-affective aspects can affect food preferences. Early childhood experiences with different foods are key in development of future food consumption preferences and habits amongst people from different cultural backgrounds. Mostly, food attraction takes different center stages. Food attraction process is a combination of physiological needs and psychological needs.

The two aspects of human needs have influence on taste and developmental preference toward particular types of comfort-giving foods. In most colleges in America, comfort foods remain a popular choice of food among the students (Hee-Jung Song et al, 2014).

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The research establishes its assumptions on the results connected to physiological and psychological motivations of food preference. According to the article, the research included two studies. The first study applied a North American survey of 411 people to regulate preferred comfort foods. On the other hand, the second study enumerated the favorites for these foods across sex and across age groups using a stratified section of 1005 extra people (Wansink, Cheney, and Chan, 2003). The choice of comfort foods among the participants has a connection to the nutritional value gained from the foods. Nutrition value is a major factor when it comes to food preference. It is the nutrition factor, which determined the classification of foods in the research as comfort foods or meals. In line with the hypothesis, the results of the research indicated comfort preferences across gender and age. For instance, in all ethnic groups, the male gender seems to prefer hearty, meal-related comfort foods while their female counterparts preferred snack related comfort foods. The same applied to age groups, where the young people preferred snack-related comfort foods and the older generation opting for meal related comfort foods.

A college is an institution with people of varying ethnicity. Ethnicity influences major areas of operation in campus setting, one of which being the food consumed. The availability of students with varying cultural backgrounds will determine the foods available on campus. Studies on the food availability on campus indicate that each student will identify with cuisines from their home region. The cultural background will in turn influence the food preference process. For instance, Americans will find American cuisines to be nutritious as compared to meals from other regions, which they do not relate. College students from the Middle East will also find foods with ingredients from their region to be nutritious. Cultural backgrounds, therefore, will influence food preference amongst college students (Kandiah et al, 2005).

Exploring college students, their main food preference and expenditure was on comfort foods. Wansink, Cheney, and Chan (2003) reports that major motivations for food choice especially comfort foods is a combination of both physiological and psychological motivations. Accordingly, biological influencers of food preferences mainly involve the body’s above-mentioned normal reaction to accurate vigor and nutrient inequalities. Consumption of preferred food in most cases elevated both mood and satisfaction of the consumer. The study reveals that consumption of preferred foods leads to release of opiates, which generate the contentment moods. Opiate-related food rewards can reinforce a preference for foods mostly linked with these feelings after consumption. For instance, most college students derive pleasure in consuming fast foods such as French Fries, Burgers and many others. Overtime, it has been noted that these foods may have adverse impacts on the consumer. These needs over time neglect the nutritional value derived from consumption of certain foods and only seek to fulfil the preference needs (Hee-Jung Song et al, 2014).

In their study, Wansink, Cheney, and Chan (2003) explain that food preference is also backed by the notion that eating a given comfort food may enable achievement of a desired level of stimulation by matching nutritional insufficiencies. During an examination of the choices of food on campus, some of the examined participants agreed that cravings was a contributor to food preference. College students agreed to falling prey of their cravings in terms of food preference. When determining food for a given meal, the nutritional aspect came second to cravings. One would expect the aspect of nutrition to be forefront when determining food choices. However, given people’s physiological and psychological needs, nutrition is not paramount. Certain environments also influence food preference. According to the study, social interactions will influence these preferences. Mainly, social interactions are a teacher for feeding habits and food preferences, which maybe as due to diverse environmental challenges (Drewnowski et al, 2012). For persons in a new environment, for instance college-going students, the social and psychological context of taste experience is significant in determining food preferences. In the study of foreign students in America adapting to the change of environment, the food preference process relied on the taste experience. Foreigners will initially rely on comfort foods for their meals before identifying hotels with their native foods. The taste experience, will in the end, determine future food preferences on campus.

Another existing aspect of food preference and nutrition especially of comfort foods is gender and age. In the college setting, a variety of comfort foods exists to cater for the physiological and psychological needs of the students. In some cases, one will group will consider comfort foods as snacks and desserts while other cultures will conform to the group of foods as a meal. The existing perspective is that most if not all comfort foods lack reasonable nutritional value. However, the study by Wansink, Cheney, and Chan (2003) disputes this assumption, as the classification of comfort is dependent on an individual or community. In this case, some foods with nutritional value and considered a meal by a given community maybe a comfort food to others. For instance, the American meals will include foods considered as fast foods and not nutritional to the consumer. For the African meals to be nutritious, it has to contain meat from wild animals and vegetables only.

An interesting aspect of communities and food preference is evident in various cultures. Drewnowski et al (2012), explores the Chinese preference of food and ethnicity. The research reveals vast knowledge on the various factors linking the two factors and nutrition. In the Chinese culture, readily available foods include those linked with positive aspects of lives. These foods will be available in most meals because of the positive symbolisms they carry. For instance, at newborn parties in Chinese culture, cooking will involve eggs and ginger roots dyed red. The combination symbolizes prosperity, happiness, and fertility. Pickled ginger on the other hand, is a symbol for growth in the persons having the meal. The Jewish community has a great food culture with every meal carrying different meaning and meant for varied activities. The contemporary literature on Jewish food explains some of the meanings associated to foods. Potato pancakes is a popular meal in the Jewish community, which serves as a reminder of the miracle of the single cruse. It is, therefore, evident that classification of comfort foods and their nutritional value varies from culture to culture.

Studies on ethnicity report that a very percentage of the populace will voluntarily change their preferred meals. Most people residing in foreign environments have difficulty in adapting to the new foods and meals especially when there is a great variance in the regions. Americans prefer fast foods and Middle East people prefer seafood. Americans preference of fast foods is due to their busy lifestyles. Middle East on the other hand, has most of its food from the sea hence the seafood preference. The nutritional value, methods of cooking, type of foods, and equipment necessary for preparation arise from the ethnicity of an individual.

Availability of certain meals and foods in a given region majorly rely on the above highlighted factors. Campus being an institution with people from different regions, it is clear there will be availability of different foods. Students with a similar cultural background had similar preferences for the available foods.

All studies indicate that nutritional factor is a major contributor to food preferences among different age groups and genders. The nutrition aspect of food arises from different physiological and psychological factors, which determine food preference. It is significant to explore the food preferences by different people of varied cultural background. In addition, it is imperative to explore the subject with other type of foods. In the above discussion, the major focus was on comfort foods. Inclusion of variety of foods will provide an expansive understanding of the connection between food preference and nutrition. The factors used to reach the conclusion should include more types of foods. Comfort foods are popular in campus hence provide an extensive understanding of the existing relationship between food preference and nutrition amongst college students.

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