Education with goal-oriented activities motivates students to choose fruits and vegetables

Fast food and away-from-home meal consumption is associated with increasing obesity in adults; often an unhealthy dietary behavior established in the critical time frame of young adulthood. A research article featured in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behaviorpublished by Elsevier, discusses how weekly food challenges and cooking videos increased confidence in making healthy choices and increased fruit and vegetable consumption among college students.

College students comprise a large portion of the young adult population, and national data suggest that college students’ diets are high in overall fat intake and inadequate in key food groups such as low-fat dairy, whole grains, fruits, and deep yellow and green vegetables. “Barriers to healthy eating for this group include a lack of nutrition and culinary knowledge, financial instability, inadequate access to healthy food options, and time,” according to Carol O’Neal, PhD, Department of Health and Sports Science, University of Louisville , Louisville, KY, USA.

Traditional college nutrition programs tend to focus on knowledge acquisition and nutrition assessment skills. Studies found that traditional nutrition classes increased nutrition knowledge but did not change dietary behavior. Research shows that knowledge and nutrition assessment skills should be supplemented with behavioral self-efficacy to prompt lifestyle changes. “Nutrition education programs grounded in Social Cognitive Theory are particularly effective in changing dietary behavior because of their focus on self-efficacy and behavior-oriented programmatic elements,” said Dr. O’Neal.

The pilot study examined a 15-week intervention incorporating food challenges and instructional cooking videos into a nutrition course that promoted changes in cooking attitudes, cooking and nutrition self-efficacy, and college students’ fruit and vegetable consumption outcomes. Course enrollment included both in-person and online students who were taught by the same instructor. Students participated in at-home food challenges that aligned with each week’s instructional topic. Guided goal setting, instead of self-set goals, was used as a pedagogical tool to support course learning outcomes and to help students learn how to translate general goals into specific and measurable goals. Students tracked their progress by writing weekly reflections.

By comparing surveys taken at the start and end of the semester, the intervention was associated with increased confidence in using fruits and vegetables in cooking and increased consumption of fruit and vegetables. Cooking attitudes remained positive throughout the study, suggesting that students signing up for a college nutrition course may already be interested in healthy cooking. “The study’s outcome, which incorporated both in-person and online learning, demonstrates the ability to successfully connect with students attending an online course and has important implications for nutrition educators,” Dr. O’Neal concluded.



The article is “Pilot Intervention Using Food Challenges and Video Technology for Promoting Fruit and Vegetable Consumption,” by Carol S. O’Neal, PhD; Adam R Cocco, PhD; Lindsay J Della, PhD; and Mary Z Ashlock, PhD ( It appears in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behaviorvolume 54, issue 8 (August 2022), published by Elsevier.

The article is openly available at

Full text of the article is also available to credentialed journalists upon request; contact Eileen Leahy at +1 732 238 3628 or to obtain a copy. To schedule an interview with the author, please contact Dr. Carol S. O’Neal at

About the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (JNEB)

Advancing Research, Practice and Policy

the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (JNEB), the official journal of the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB), is a refereed, scientific periodical that serves as a resource for all professionals with interest in nutrition education and dietary/physical activity behaviors. The purpose of JNEB is to document and disseminate original research, emerging issues, and practices relevant to nutrition education and behavior worldwide and to promote healthy, sustainable food choices. It supports the Society’s efforts to disseminate innovative nutrition education strategies, and communicate information on food, nutrition, and health issues to students, professionals, policymakers, targeted audiences, and the public.

the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior features articles that provide new insights and useful findings related to nutrition education research, practice, and policy. The content areas of JNEB reflect the diverse interests of health, nutrition, education, Cooperative Extension, and other professionals working in areas related to nutrition education and behavior. As the Society’s official journal, JNEB also includes policy statements, issue perspectives, and member communications.

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