Healthy diet for overseas students Essay Example

Research on Dietary Intake Among Foreign Students in Australia


The report below summarises the findings of a research of UWS College Quakers Hill campus foreign students on their eating habits in August 2011. The research used questionnaires to collect data which were distributed to a stratified sample of 40 foreign students with a bias on Middle Eastern. Key findings of this research are that students are aware that eating habits affect their studies and that time management issues in college drive students towards eating unhealthy fast foods. The research concludes that foreign students need to be assisted with time management skills to allow them to eat healthy.


Healthy living has gained popularity worldwide. More and more people are concerned about the lifestyles that they lead and even the food that they take. However, professions, culture and finances among other factors are great determinants of what individuals partake. There has been increased interest in research on diets and healthy living. This interest is driven by knowledge that what one eats has a far reaching effect not only on the physical part but also on the spiritual and emotional being. Socio-cultural factors have a great role on feeding habits (Grannge, Telch & Tibbs 1998). It is for this reason that the foreign students deserve special attention to investigate how they adapt to new environments in a new country.

Foreign students, from a personal view experience difficulties in adapting to new culture, new environment, new peoples and new diets in their host countries, in this context Australia. Furthermore, these students have to contend with new learning environments and educational systems different from their home countries. In this regard, foreign students are usually under intense pressure socially and culturally and their feeding habits often suffer (Lanhan-New, Macdonald & Roche 2011). Past research tends to show that feeding habits for young adults tend to change given their college and university lifestyle. Again, feeding habits are influenced by energy requirements and age.

According to Huang et al (1994), research studies on college students eating habits are limited. More limited are studies that focus solely on a special group of them, foreign students. This group deserves special attention given that geography, climate, culture and relocation all affect eating habits. According to Grannge, Telch and Tibbs (1998), comfort foods such as chocolate and candy are popular with people who have relocated away from family and friends. Loneliness may also play a major role. The authors go ahead to indicate that communities, as guided by culture and nature, tend to eat most what is readily available in their surroundings. As such, it is important to investigate how foreign students adjust their dietary needs in the new environment. This paper discusses the findings of a research conducted to investigate the feeding habits of foreign students at UWS College Quakers Hill campus.


On the last week of August 2011 a survey was conducted by means of a questionnaire given to 40 international students at UWS College Quakers Hill campus. The students were supposed to record their food intake for one week and fill out questionnaires. 45% (18) of the respondents were male and 55 % (22) were female. The respondents were from different countries but most of them were from Middle Eastern countries.

The research consisted of 3 steps. The first step involved designing the questionnaire. The second step was distributing the questionnaires to the respondents. The third step was collecting the file out questionnaires and presenting and analyzing the data. Bar charts and pie charts were used to present the data for easy 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 asked about the demographic information. The second section had seven questions that elected information about healthy diets for overseas students.

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

Sweets were the most unpopular food type with the highest frequent of the never consumed category. Bread, pasta, rice and noodles were the most popular with daily consumption being the highest. Seafood consumption was the most spontaneously consumed. From fig 2, alcohol had been least tried out as it had the highest number of students who reported they have never took it during the research period. Soft drinks were the second most unpopular drink. The number of possible alcoholics seems low as below 5% of respondents took alcohol daily. Tea and coffee and milk were even in popularity as an every day drink at 25%. Alcohol was moderately consumed sometimes at 38%.

According to Fig 4., Fast foods seem considerably popular with only one out of five foreign students in this study reporting not to have had any in a week. Excessive consumption of fast foods, considered to be more than five times a week is fairly small at 5%. On the other hand, two out of every five foreign students in the study reported to have eaten fast foods 3-5 times a week. The reasons given for eating fat foods varied though the most popular reasons were to save time, because of the low price of fast food and because they did not how to cook. Almost 3/5th of the respondents ate fast food in order to save time. The difference between those who eat fast food to save time and because of pricing is significantly small

From fig 5, more than half (57%) of the students believe that they eat healthy. The results contrast what the foreign students in the study believe about Australian food as shown by fig 6. The results show that more foreign students (55%) believe that they eat healthier foods while in their home countries than when in Australia. The rest (45%) believe that they eat more healthily while in Australia. From fig. 6, only a quarter of the students believe that their eating habits affect their studies while an overwhelming three quarters believe eating habits affect their studies.


According to the findings of this study, majority of students are aware that what they eat and drink affects their studies. However, a high number of them continue to eat irresponsibly due to a variety of reasons. According to Huang et al, in his more expansive study, students in the college going age (young adults) tend to skip breakfast more than other age groups. Although this research noted that saving time is a critical issue among foreign students, Huang et al study did not investigate the reasons for skipping this important mean which assist in drawing inferences. According to Pao, Sykes and Cypel (cited in Huang et al 1994), this is the most important meal of the day as it dictates the energy levels throughout the day and has a bearing on the level of concentration. As such, it has the highest impact on studies.

Grannge, Telch and Tibbs (1998) note that there is a growing concern and awareness in healthy eating and living globally especially in developed countries. The findings of this study confirm this as shown by the high number of respondents who ‘sometimes’ take fruits and vegetables. This awareness is also reflected in the respondents’ knowledge of the fact that their eating habits affect their studies. Nutritionists agree that energy requirements vary by sex. Men require more energy due to higher body mass and relatively higher physical activity involvement. As such, they tend to consumer more fat rich foods than women. Huang et al research confirms this.

Lanhan-New, Macdonald and Roche (2011) state that religion, culture and socioeconomic status play a very important role in influencing eating and drinking habits. The current study ignored this aspect. However, given the high number of respondents who reported never to have drunk alcohol in duration of the research could pint to this. With majority of the respondents being Middle Eastern, it is probable that Islamic culture and religion played a significant role. Another important influence on cultural influence one’s eating habits is the socially assigned gender roles. For instance, it can be deduced that majority of the respondents who said that they ate fast foods because they did now how to cook were men. In most cultures, cooking is a social role for women.


From the above study, it is apparent that some foreign students have trouble adjusting to new culture and new diet in Australia that is different from their home countries. Fortunately, globalisation has allowed availability of foreign diets in Australia that allows foreign students enough time to adjust and acclimatise in diet. International colleges and universities should this consider introducing foreign meals in college canteens to allow foreign students to settle in. again, more research needs to be directed in this are to understand how best to assist foreign students eat healthy. Finally, time management courses should be introduced to curb the attractiveness of fast foods.


Grannge, D. Telch, C. & Tibbs, J. (1998). ‘Eating Attitudes and Behaviors in 1,435 South

African Caucasian and Non-Caucasian College Students’American journal of psychiatry 155 (2), 250-254.

Huang, Y.L., Song, W.O. & Schemmel, R. A. et al (1994). ‘What do college students eat?

Food selection and meal pattern’Nutrition Research, 14(8), 1143-1153.

Lanhan-New, S. A. Macdonald, I. & Roche, M. (2011). Nutrition and metabolism. London:

John Wiley and Sons.