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Table 3 Key enablers of 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

  Enabler Definition Exemplifying Quote
Individuala Knowledge Knowledge or awareness of nutrition, understanding of dietary restrictions, and ability to identify healthy foods “Being aware really does help. I took nutrition and fitness last year. It honestly did change the way I ate a little bit because I just learned a lot about eating habits and what’s in food and things like that.”
Attitude and Beliefs Perceptions that make healthy eating desirable It’s not about the body for me, it’s about the energy. That’s how I look at it. Food is energy.”
Attitude and Beliefs: Prioritization Belief that healthy eating is a priority in relation to other factors “I’m the most disorganized person ever. But [meal prep] is a priority in my life. So every Sunday I cook seven dinners and then snacks and then I freeze them.”
Attitude and Beliefs: Thriftiness Belief that resources should be used carefully and waste avoided “A recipe makes a certain amount and you’re like “well I don’t want to waste this or it won’t fit in my fridge and to me being wasteful is really being part of being healthy.” Like being healthy to the planet.”
Dietary Restrictions Having a health condition that requires a particular diet “last year, I had to go to the doctor a lot because I didn’t know what was going on with me. So I guess that’s why you have to be healthy [….] Even though you don’t want to do it, you still have to.”
Behaviors Performing peripheral behaviors that foster healthy eating “I take time to meal prep and so I can eat healthy and it’s easier for me to choose a healthy snack.”
Social Environmentalb Parental Influence Parental influence on the home eating environment that encourages healthy eating behaviors “When it’s at home your parents monitor what you eat. Like, ‘No, you’re not going to eat half a pan of brownies.’”
Peer Support Interpersonal support for healthy behavior change as a bonding/shared activity “[my best friend and I] go workout together, make dinner together. It was because that we had each other that we were like ok like ‘tonight we’re gonna do this it’s gonna be great’. You make it fun.”
Physical Environmentalc Institutional Environment Aspects of the college environment that foster healthy eating “One of the things I do like about UH though is the farmers market that they have. Where it has those fruits and vegetables. That’s at a really good price. So it’s almost like having a mini grocery store. So I appreciate the school giving us that much.”
Living Situation Positive impact of living situation on available food options “Now I live off campus and I pack lunches every day, so I’m not buying the food [on campus] since there are the limited healthy options [….] I definitely see better eating habits now that I’m living off campus as opposed to living on campus.”
Macrosystemd Social Media Positive impact of social media on eating habits “Social media now, too, is an enabler. Because there’s so many more like, vegan, vegetarian, like healthy food pages that you can find recipes on that are pretty make-able […] I think socially and society-wise, it’s being more promoted.”
Cost Positive impact of cost on healthy food options “if we have a little more money […] then it might be easier for some students to figure out what food they want that’s more of a priority to them - which might be the more expensive healthier food.”
  1. bIndividual characteristics that encourage 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 enablers, cost, time, convenience)
  2. bInterpersonal influences (including family, friends, peer networks, and other social groups that model and reinforce perceived norms) that encourage healthy 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 easier
  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 an enabler of healthy eating