Healthy diet for overseas students Essay Example

Healthy Diet for Overseas Students

Healthy Diet for Overseas Students


Each year students from overseas countries flood the Australia universities for search of higher education and its quality that is associated with Western countries. While the dietary habits of these students are as diverse as the cultural backgrounds they come from, the shared experiences of these students when they come to Australia affect their eating habits. The main aim of this study was to investigate the types and frequencies of foods and drinks taken by the overseas students, the reason why they take fast foods, their perception of whether the Australian diet is better than that of the home country or not and to find out if their diet affects their studies. The method employed the use of questionnaires which were distributed to 40 international students in UWS College Quakers Hill campus. The results revealed that the majority of the students took the foods and drinks found in Australia on a regular basis. These include fruit and vegetable, bread, pasta, rice and noodles, sweets and sea foods, coffee and tea, milk and but alcohol is not consumed as much.75% of the students do not think that the Australian diet affects their studies. It was concluded that as much as the overseas student do with the Australian diet, efforts must be put to orient them on to what to expect as far as diet is concerned when they come for the first time in Australia.


Eating habits, which are usually shaped by culture, are prone to undergo changes. These changes might accompany a process of acculturation resulting from moving to a new country. According to Bellisle, Monneuse, Steptoe & Wardle (1995), students moving to a new country for studies usually find it hard to continue with their traditional eating habits, with the foods they have been used to being hard to find. The Western equivalents of the food they are accustomed to prove to be very expensive. Changes in diets that these students go through are associated with the length of experience they have with the new environment, their ability to adapt to the new culture, their ability to speak the new language and the degree of social interaction with the nationalities of the new country.

In most cases, a change from the traditional diet to a new Westernised diet has been said to have some bad effects on the health of the overseas students. A study by Pan, Dixon, Humburg & Huffman (1999) highlights the different rates of diseases among the overseas students due to diseases related to chronic diet. According to Lartey et al (2009), people from different cultural environments and backgrounds have unique eating habits. Overseas students are drawn from different cultural backgrounds and have diverse beliefs, attitudes and perceptions on eating habits. Moreover, there are individual differences in attitudes, knowledge and behaviors and overseas students are not an exception to this. Research has shown that these students have difficulties adapting to the Australian way of life. In spite of the increasing population of overseas students in Australia, few research efforts have been put towards promoting the healthy diet of international students.

The main purpose of this study was to find out the types and frequencies of food and drinks consumed by overseas students. The study also sought to find out the amount of food they consume per week and the reason they consume junk food. Most especially, the study sought to find out the perceptions of the overseas student on whether or not overseas students have a healthy diet in Australia as compared to the home country. This study also investigated the perception of overseas students on the effect of their eating habits on their study.


On the 24th of august 2011 a survey was conducted by means of a questionnaire given to 40 international students at UWS College Quakers Hill campus. 45% of the respondents were males and 55 % were females. The respondents were from different countries, most of them from Middle East.

The research consisted of 3 steps. The first step was designing the questionnaire which was then distributed to students at UWS College by a group of administers. The next step involved data collection for further analysis.

There were 10 questions in the questionnaire, one was an open question and the rest were closed questions. In addition, there were two main sections in the questionnaire. The first section sought to get the demographic information of the students. The second section had seven questions that sought to get information about their diet.

The data was converted into percentages and were represented in the form of graphs and then analyzed.

All the 40 overseas students who participated in the study returned fully filled questionnaires. As Stated in the methodology, the subjects were 55 percent females and 45 percent males. All of them were studying at UWS College Quakers Hill campus. The sample was normally distributed across the faculties of the University.

Types and Frequencies of Foods Consumed

There were a number of differences in the frequencies of foods consumed among the overseas students. The high consumption of the foods listed as fruit and vegetable, meat, bread, pasta, rice and noodles, sweets and sea foods was not on a daily basis but on a time to time basis. The consumption of these foods on a “sometimes” frequency was above 55% of the subjects. In this frequency, fruit and vegetables; meat sweet and sea food were consumed to approximately 70% of the students. The percentages for the “Never” and “Everyday” frequencies were approximately the same for the consumption of the foods and were approximately below 20% except for bread, pasta, rice and noodles which were consumed by over 47% of the students on a daily basis.

healthy diet for overseas students

Types and Frequencies of Drinks Consumed

Overseas students consumed the drinks available in Australia of the type of Fruit Juice, Soft Drinks, Tea and Coffee, Milk and Alcohol. Majority of the subjects believe in drinking healthy drinks with those who take them on a sometime basis being above 40% but those talking alcohol are below 40%. Those who never take alcohol were 60% of the respondents but at the same time, the students who take these drinks on a daily basis are below 25%. High percentages were also recorded in those who never take Soft Drinks and Tea & Coffee being listed at 35% and 30% respectively a shown in Figure 2 below.

healthy diet for overseas students 1

Amount of Fast Food Consumed Per Week and why

Figure 3 below illustrates the number of times the overseas students take fast food per week. 40% of them take junk food 3-5 times per week, 35% 1-2 times per week and 5% more than 5 times per week. 20% of the respondents never take junk food.

healthy diet for overseas students 2

From these results, it can be seen that a majority of the overseas students consume fast food. Figure 4 below therefore shows the reasons why the overseas students take fast food. 59% of them said it was due to the fact that taking fast food saves time as compared to having to prepare the food yourself. Lack of cooking knowledge and skills 22% and affordability of the fast foods 19% were also given as reasons for taking fast foods. healthy diet for overseas students 3Perception of Whether Students Have a Healthy Diet in Australia or Home Country

The majority of the respondents (57%) perceived that overseas students have a healthy diet in Australia. More Almost a half of the respondents (43%) reported that overseas students do not have a healthy diet in Australia. These percentages are listed in the Figure 5 below.

healthy diet for overseas students 4It is however very important to note that the same respondents perceived that the students had a better diet in their home country. Slightly more than half of the respondents (55%) thought that they had a better diet in their home country as compared to the 45% who said no and they think that overseas students have a better diet in Australia. This can be clearly seen from figure 6 below..

healthy diet for overseas students 5

Perception of Whether Eating Habits Affect Studies

The overseas students appreciate the diet that they receive in Australia with a vast majority (75%) having the perception that it does not affect their studies. 25% of them however felt that the diet they receive in Australia affects their studies. This can be clearly seen in the figure 7 below.

healthy diet for overseas students 6


This has exposed some of the eating habits of international students in Australia as well as gives their perceptions on the eating habits in Australia as compared to the ones in their home countries. Some of these eating habits and perceptions had earlier been reported in studies by different researchers and authors who found that change of cultural environment make international students have a hard time adapting to eating habits in their new countries. According to Y.-l huang et al, (2009), college students take drinks as skimmed milk and dishes with low fat content. This is consistent with the present study as international students were found to like the healthy drinks like milk, soft drinks, tea and coffee and meat was also among the foods they went for in conjunction with fruit and vegetable, bread, pasta, rice and noodles, sweets and sea foods. Fast foods (junk)
such as such as pizza, hamburger, French fries and potato chips were also frequently consumed, as reported by Y.-l huang et al, (2009). These fast foods were listed as among the major foods taken by the overseas students.

Identifying perceived reasons for taking a lot of junk foods and fast foods among the overseas students, the majority of them identified time constraints, lack of cooking skills and cost as the major reasons. These results are consistent with those listed by Bellisle, Monneuse, Steptoe, Wardle (1995) in their study Weight concerns and eating patterns of university students in Europe. In this study, students agreed that the reasons why they take fast foods is due to lack of time, lack of foods they are used to in their home country as well as lack of cooking skills. The eating habits of university students have always been characterized with numerous instances of snacking, skipping meals, mainly breakfast. Pan, Dixon Humburg & Huffman (1999) reported in their study that international students who cater for themselves have poor dietary habits as compared to those living in the university halls. There was also a lot of perception that international students miss their ethnic foods as they felt that the diet at hoe was better than in the university. This is common with all school going persons at all levels of education who believe the meals at home are better than the ones they receive at schools. The international students however feel that the western diet is good and healthy as reported in this study.

However, the question of whether the Australian diet affects the studies of the overseas students is not a matter of concern as a majority of them believe that their studies are not affected by the eating habits in Australia. With the Australian diet, students have the opportunity to read and advance their careers without regard to what type of foods they take. In conclusion, this study has clearly highlighted the diet of overseas students in Australia and also shown some perceptions they have towards the diet. The perceived reasons for taking junk food and its effect on their studies were the high cost of healthy food, lack of sufficient time to prepare a decent meal and lack of cooking skills. It is recommended that overseas students should be taken through orientation programs that will gives them a comprehensive view of social, cultural and academic issues in Australia. Moreover, emphasis should be put on taking a healthy diet as well as time management as far as a healthy diet is concerned.


MEDLINEBellisle F, Monneuse M, Steptoe A, Wardle J. (1995).. Int. J. Obes. Relat. Metab. Disord., 19: 723-730.

MEDLINEPan Y, Dixon Z, Humburg S, Huffman F. (1999). Asian students change their eating patterns after living in the United States. J. Am. Diet. Assoc., 99: 54-57.

Ya-Li Huang, MS., Won O. Song 1, Ph.D., R.D., Rachel A. Schemmel Ph.D., R.D., Sharon M. and Hoerr Ph.D., R.D.(2009) what do college btudent8 eat ? Food selection and meal pattern; East Lansing, USA; Michigan State University