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How to get students to eat more vegetables and fruits

How to get students to eat more vegetables & fruits instead of too many fats.
How to get students to eat more vegetables & fruits instead of too many fats.
Apples on the table at the White House's Oval Office - (Photo by Brendan Smialowski-Pool/Getty Images).

In the Sacramento and Davis regional area, most college students here don't eat enough vegetables and fruits. A 2009 survey of UC Davis students found that more than 60 percent of college students in the Sacramento and Davis areas eat two or fewer servings of nutrition-packed fruits and vegetables a day. By increasing access to fresh produce, the farmer's market on the UC Davis campus can make it easier for students, staff and faculty to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into their diet.

On one hand you hear about childhood obesity, and on the other there are college students who haven't eaten enough vegetables for their own health starting from childhood. Then you have a group of college students on a mainly meat and fats, almost no-carb diet to lose weight. And finally, there's a minority of students who are vegans or want to be.

How many times have you witnessed a basket of 'free' apples left for students to take one as they leave a school eatery, but the apples often go untouched. Is it because the kids are toothless? Kids and college students would eat the apples if they were emulsified, pureed, and added to other foods from smoothies to casseroles.

The way to solve this problem is to sneak the vegetables and fruits into other foods that kids will eat by habit, preference, taste, or familiarity. It has been said that childhood obesity might be due to kids not eating enough servings of vegetables daily and some fruit such as strawberries or blueberries.

See the site, See, East Quad - Student Health and Counseling Services - UC Davis. According to that local article, students and the public can buy fruits and vegetables on the UC Davis campus at the East Quad Farmers Market. It runs every Wednesday during Fall and Spring quarters. The market is closed during the summer and will reopen at the start of Fall quarter.

What you get on campus is a great variety of fresh, local produce,. It's conveniently located on the East Quad at UC Davis. Vegetables, fruits, as well as olive oil, nuts, flowers, grapes, apples, tomatoes, melons, peaches, & nectarines are available. The idea is for Sacramento and Davis students to help support local farmers by eating more produce. The East Quad Farmers Market (EQFM) at UC Davis is a successful collaboration that has increased access to fresh, local produce for busy UC Davis students, staff and faculty during fall and spring quarters.

Nationally, most college students don't eat enough fruits and vegetables unless they're part of a small minority of vegetarians

College students love eating fat but may not want to get fat. They're not getting enough fruits and vegetables at mealtime, says a new study out of Oregon State University. In a survey that studied the eating habits of 582 college students, researchers found that many of the students weren't even getting one serving of fruits or vegetables a day. The recommended daily intake is five servings.

See the August 17, 2011 article, Study: College students not eating enough fruits and veggies. A typical day might start out with eggs and cheese melted on bread, or hot cakes and sausages, progress to a burger and fries, snacks of chips and sodas, and maybe include a yogurt or some type of processed meat sandwich, maybe a hot dog, and finally a dinner of more fats, such as pizza or meats, and fries such as a meatball sandwich or fish, shrimp, and fried onions and perhaps some rice.

The Oregon State University study, published online in Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, also found that both males and females surveyed were consuming more than 30 percent of their calories from fat. The American Dietetic Association recommends no more than 30 percent of calories come from fat over the course of a week.

The study by Oregon State University researchers surveyed the eating habits of 582 college students, a majority of which were first-year students. The study, now online in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, compares male and female students, but found that both were not getting the proper amount of fruits and vegetables. Male students had about five servings a week, slightly higher than female students who self-reported eating about four servings of fruits and vegetables.

Female students had lower fiber intake, while males tended to consume more fat in their diet. Overall, the females had better eating habits, including skipping fewer meals, eating in the college dining halls more frequently, and reading food labels.

“We found that students skipped meals fairly frequently, which could account for some of the lack of fruits and veggies,” said Brad Cardinal, a professor of exercise and sport science at Oregon State University and one of the study’s authors, according to the news release, Study: College students not eating enough fruits and veggies. “Still, even accounting for fewer meals consumed, the students were on average not always eating even one serving of fruits or vegetables per day, far below the USDA guidelines.”

Both males and females were consuming more than 30 percent of their calories from fat, which exceeds the American Dietetic Association’s recommendation of no more than 30 percent a week. Too many cakes, ice cream snacks, and chips or popcorn adds up when fat is put on other foods such as melted butter or oil dressings and sauces with pasta or lots of cheese and pizza meals.

Unless the student is from an ethnic community that prefers specialty foods found on campus, there is the tendency to avoid vegetables. Cardinal, who is an expert in the psychological and social aspects of health and exercise, said, according to the news release of August 17, 2011, that the larger take-away message is that proper eating and nutrition is not integrated enough into our society. He said the surveyed students came from OSU, where healthy options are available in dining halls.

“We are not teaching youth how to be self-sustaining,” Cardinal said, according to the news release. “Home economics and nutrition classes have all but disappeared from our schools in the K-12 system. There is a fundamental lack of understanding on how to eat well in a very broad sense.”

Cardinal said, according to the press release, that studies show that when people prepare food at home they tend to eat better and consume fewer calories. He said their survey showed that students ate out a lot and consumed at least one fast food meal per week.

“We have a cooking camp for (elementary school) kids here at OSU that teaches kids how to shop for their food, prepare it and then clean up after themselves,” he said. “These are essential skills every child should know, and it will stay with them long after they leave school.”

Cardinal pointed to recent concerning trends, such as in Texas where health education is no longer required by the state. In addition, many school districts, including ones in Oregon, have cut home economics/nutrition classes due to budget constraints.

“Health is an area being neglected, yet all the available research show that healthy habits and healthy kids can lead to better academic success,” Cardinal said. “We are doing a disservice to our kids by not teaching them these essential life skills.”

OSU alum Kin-Kit “Ben” Li was lead author on the paper, which was funded with a grant from the Good Samaritan Hospital Foundation. The study was also co-authored by associate professor Vicki Ebbeck and former OSU Ph.D. students Rebecca Concepcion, Tucker Readdy, Hyo Lee and Erica Woekel.

How to You Get Students to Eat Vegetables and Fruit?

Back in Sacramento, students at California State University, Sacramento, eat in several food markets and restaurants/eateries on campus. But what is the variety of foods? You don't get many vegetables unless you order some of the Asian foods, which are loaded with salt and sometimes have more white rice on the plate than vegetables.

You're not going to easily find brown rice or black rice served at CSUS dining places. What you will find are a lot of pizza, crepes, sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, fries, fats, and starchy fillers. There is an Indian foods eatery on CSUS campus where you can get an excellent chicken tikka masala, but it's served with white rice, not brown rice.

So how do you get college students to eat their vegetables? The answer is you disguise the vegetables by liquefying the vegetables and including them in smoothies or sauces mixed in with other foods or served as a type of gravy. You hide the vegetables in the emulsified fruit smoothies, sauces, and casseroles. Check out the July 28, 2011 NY Daily News article by staff writer Lindsay Goldwert, Fruits, vegetables missing from most college students' diets.

You hide vegetables in children's foods. That's effective. The kids of all ages from preschool to graduate school will eat the food if it tastes familiar. According to the NY Daily News article, "When it comes to getting kids to eat their vegetables, it pays to be sneaky. Preschoolers in a Pennsylvania State University study ate twice as many vegetables and 11% fewer calories just by eating their favorite foods - creatively enhanced with pureed fruits and veggies, that is."

What do you hide vegetables in? Try making for college students or preschoolers and any kid in-between banana bread and zucchini bread. If you're serving pasta, mix the pasta with chunks of chicken in a casserole and add pureed produce such as the cruciferious vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli) or tomatoes, squash, and zucchini. You can even put in pieces of eggplant into a casserole, but the bright colors of squash are appealing to young children and teenagers. So how do you hide vegetables in other foods?

Just puree or emulsify the vegetables in a broth using your blender. Then add them to the foods. You can make date-nut bread and instead of liquid from water, add pureed or emulsified vegetables. Mix tomatoes and yellow or green squash to make bright colors in pasta. You can check out the data on how to sneak vegetables into other foods so kids will eat their vegetables as the data is published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.


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