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Table 2 Key barriers to healthy eating in college students at UHM (n = 44)

From: Identifying perceived barriers and enablers of healthy eating in college students in Hawai’i: a qualitative study using focus groups

  Barrier Definition Exemplifying Quotation
Individuala Lack of Knowledge Lack of knowledge of how to obtain or prepare food, lack of nutrition knowledge or inability to identify healthy foods “I think my biggest barrier is definitely not knowing what I’m doing. Just not knowing what to buy, not knowing what to cook to be healthy.”
Attitudes and Beliefs Regarding healthy eating as undesirable “I feel like eating healthy is kind of a chore. It’s healthy but it doesn’t taste the best. It doesn’t make me happy, because you’re supposed to enjoy eating.”
Attitude and Beliefs: Prioritization Regarding healthy eating as not a priority in relation to other factors “After a long day of school […] we worry more about convenience than health.”
Attitude and Beliefs: Procrastination Regarding healthy eating as not urgent “Not until something affects them do they really realize like, ‘Oh I should probably change my eating habits’”
Attitude and Beliefs: Thriftiness Believing resources should be used carefully and waste avoided I think it’s hard for a lot of college students to eat healthy in the dining halls because it’s all-you-can-eat. You want to get your money’s worth.
Behaviors Performing peripheral behaviors that hinder healthy eating “You take a handful of [brand name snack] and go study. Studying is really boring and you’re not focusing well. Then you get another handful and then you go get another handful. Then you bring the box in your room [laughter]. And […] you’re basically unconsciously just eating them as you study and you don’t even recognize [how much] you’ve eaten.”
Taste Preference Preference for the taste of foods perceived to be unhealthy I’m not going to suffer through gross, I’m going to go eat pizza [laughs].”
Social Environmentalb Peer Pressure Pressure from peers to engage in unhealthy eating behaviors “I would never eat past 8, but when everyone’s hanging out, eating like chips and stuff, […] and it’s there and [you’re] like, “Oh okay, I’ll have like a few chips.” I’d never […] do that at home. So it’s the social part.”
Parental Influence Parental influence that encourages unhealthy eating behaviors “Students may also change their eating habits on purpose because they were limited by their parents or guardians. Because it’s ‘Eat your vegetables,’ and now there’s nobody so there’s no restrictions.”
Physical Environmentalc Institutional Environment Aspects of the college environment that hinder healthy eating “There’s definitely ways to be healthy on campus, but there’s a lot of places here that have better, healthier options that are way more expensive.”
Living Situation Negative impact of living situation on available food options “If I had an apartment with a kitchen I would be better off because I could just cook for myself.”
Lack of Facilities Lack of food storage space or utensils that hinder healthy eating All I had was a mini fridge and a microwave and my food suddenly became ramen and whatever was just I could order [online] so not really many fruits or veggies”.
Location Lack of proximity to grocery stores or commute hindering healthy eating “Because a lot of us aren’t from here, we don’t have that access—Well, I mean, we have the bus, but it’s not like we can take so many groceries with us on the bus. It’s difficult for us to… wander away from campus to go buy what we need.”
Macrosystemd Cost Negative impact of cost on healthy food options “I can get a lot more out of my money if I’m buying things like pastas, cereals, those kinds of fast filling foods. Rather than buying fresh fruit, vegetables, and meat [which are] expensive as well […] it’s much more cost effective.”
Lack of Education Characteristics of the educational system that hinder healthy eating “In the education system, we’ve taken out so many things that are important, you know? When- when my parents- just older generations talk about school, they had a lot of life skills classes […] they had home-ec.”
  1. aIndividual characteristics deterring participants from healthy eating, including psychosocial factors (attitudes and beliefs, knowledge, self-efficacy, preferences), behavioral factors (meal and snack habits and other food-related behaviors), and lifestyle factors (perceived barriers, cost, time, convenience)
  2. bInterpersonal influences (including family, friends, peer networks, and other social groups that model and reinforce perceived norms) that encourage unhealthy eating behaviors
  3. cInfluences in the community setting which influence the accessibility and availability of foods, such as grocery stores, vending machines, cafeterias, etc. such that healthy eating is more difficult
  4. dInfluences pertaining to mass media, advertising, marketing, social norms, cultural norms, food production and distribution systems, local, state, and federal policies which influence food-related issues that serve as a barrier to healthy eating