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Despite the significant implications of healthy eating on overall long-term health, many college students engage in poor dietary habits, such as high intake of fast foods and other foods high in fat, low intake of fruits, vegetables, and dairy, and erratic eating behaviors such as meal skipping.1 A balanced diet can help students increase energy levels, promote a functioning immune system, improve their ability to cope with stress, and increase concentration and performance in school. Healthy eating is influenced by a variety of factors. For students in particular, factors influencing dietary habits include time, availability of healthy options, friends’ eating habits, and nutritional knowledge. University stakeholders can support healthy eating by making healthy options affordable, accessible, and desirable while providing information on making healthy food and beverage choices.

Key Facts

  • 24.3% of NYU students are overweight, of which 6.0% are obese.29
  • During the first 3–4 months of college, students gain an average of 1.5–6.8 lb., with the proportion of overweight or obese students as much as doubling by the end of the first semester.3
  • The prevalence of obesity among young adults more than doubled in the past 30 years. The most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data indicate that the prevalence has continued to increase since 1999.2
  • Soft drink intake is highest among 19-39 year olds compared to other age groups.4
  • NHANES data illustrate that a majority of young adults (aged 20–29 years) consume <1 serving/day of fruit (males 63%, females 59%) and vegetables, including potatoes (males 19%, females 20%).5
  • On average, college students eat at fast-food restaurants 1 to 3 times per week.28

Suggestions for Parents and Families

This page is intended to be a resource containing suggestions for what you can do to improve NYU your student’s dietary habits and nutritional status.

Buy and stock up on at healthy foods at home. Model good eating habits for your student. Research has demonstrated that family is the most influential source of nutrition information.28

Teach your student how to cook and prepare healthy meals and snacks. Select recipes that students could realistically prepare on their own and provide them with recipe printouts. For examples of healthy recipes, visit: or the NYU Student Health Center's Nutrition Services.

Encourage family and friends to send healthful eating care packages and non-food items to students rather than candies and sweets.

Encourage your student to keep an eating schedule, even if it's not the same one that you keep. At minimum, students should eat soon after waking, a mid-day meal, and a final meal a few hours before sleep.

Discuss alcohol and its impact on nutrition with your student. Alcohol and nutrition are closely linked. Over consumption of alcohol can lead to nutrient deficiencies, weight gain, and chronic diseases such as liver disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and coronary heart disease. Over consumption of alcohol with over consumption of other high calorie foods can quickly lead to the “freshman fifteen.”

Make healthy eating a priority and talk about it with your student. Be available to listen if your student has concerns or questions, and provide non-judgmental support to your student regarding weight issues that may arise during the college experience (e.g., the freshman fifteen). Offer encouragement and suggest your student meet with a primary care provider or the Registered Dietician at the NYU Student Health Center for help managing weight issues.

Discourage dieting, especially fad diets. If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Encourage a healthful diet comprised of balance rather than restriction.

Be aware of the warning signs of an eating disorder: significant weight loss or gain, change in mood/affect, continued distress about food and body, avoidance of social situations where food is offered, making excuses to eat less, waking in the middle of the night to eat (leaving excessive wrappers behind), choosing exercise over rest/sleep/social events, grades dropping, skipping class. If you think that your student may be struggling, contact the Wellness Exchange at 212-443-9999 for advice about how to handle the situation.

nutrition indicators

a) Consumption of 5 or more servings of fruits and/or vegetables per day

  • Data Source: ACHA #28
  • Survey Question: How many servings of fruits and vegetables do you usually have per day?
  • Definition: proportion eating 5 or more servings per day

b) Received Information on nutrition

  • Data Source: ACHA survey #2A8
  • Survey Question: Have you received information on the following topics from your college or university: nutrition?
  • Definition: proportion of students who received nutrition information from college/university

c) Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption

  • Data Source: ACHA survey custom question (nq76)
  • Survey Question: How many servings per day do you drink of soda (do not include diet soda or seltzer) or other sweetened drinks like sweetened coffee or tea?
  • Definition: proportion of students who drink 1 or more sugar-sweetened beverages per day

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  10. National Policy and Legal Analysis Network to Prevent Childhood Obesity. (2010). Model Wellness Policy Language for Water Access in Schools.
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  12. New York State Department of Health. (2009, October). Guidelines for healthy meetings. New York State Department of Health.
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