A new study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior comes just in time for National Nutrition Month®. In it, researchers focused on how the current generation of young adults perceive certain dietary terms—and how those perceptions may shape the future of nutrition education.
Following a smaller pilot study, more than 600 college students from the University of Hawaii and Brigham Young University in Utah were asked to complete an 11-question survey to help determine how they defined the terms “meal,” “real meal,” and “snack”.
According to the results, most students described a meal as any food consumed, while a real meal was considered something “nutritious and healthy” that benefited the body. A snack, in comparison, was described as a smaller portion of food eaten between meals to help fend off hunger.
“Students’ perceptions relating to the words real meal, meal, and snack might allow nutrition educators another way to frame and promote healthful eating,’ said lead author Jinan Banna, PhD, RDN in a recent news release. Indeed, simply using the term “real meal” may help encourage young adults to adopt healthier eating habits at a crucial time in their lives—when the newly found freedom of college life allows them to make important choices about their eating habits.