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Changes in dietary habits following temporal migration. The case of international students in Belgium

Perez-Cueto, Federico, Verbeke, Wim, Lachat, Carl, Remaut-De Winter, Anne Marie
Appetite 2009 v.52 no.1 pp. 83-88
temporal variation, nutrient intake, food intake, dietary fiber, attitudes and opinions, men, women, nutritional adequacy, gender differences, college students, processed foods, food choices, vegetables, dietary surveys, immigration, nutrition knowledge, Belgium
This paper reports findings from a cross-sectional survey carried out in April-May 2006 among international students enrolled at Ghent University in Belgium. The aim of the study was to assess their knowledge and attitudes related to nutrition, perceived changes in dietary habits, perceived barriers to healthy eating and the determinants of dietary changes since their arrival in Belgium. In total, 235 students from 60 countries participated. Following the reported dietary changes, which were factor-analyzed into “less energy-dense” foods, “more fruits and vegetables” and “less processed” foods, three clusters could be identified. Cluster 1 composed of students who increased their fruits, vegetables and fiber intake. Cluster 2, the largest, reported dietary changes overall and in particular towards less processed foods. Cluster 3 composed of students who changed in the main towards less energy-dense foods. Gender differences were observed in healthy dietary changes, particularly in males. Healthier choices were hindered by a perceived unavailability of healthy food products. Gender and availability of healthy foods should be taken into consideration when informing temporal migration populations, such as international students in this study, about the healthy food options available during their stay in a different cultural, food and dietary environment.