MONDAY, May 7, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- College students are more likely to snack on fresh fruits and vegetables when these healthy options are placed where they can easily reach them, a new study suggests.
Students also ate more fruit when it was made clearly visible to them, according to the report recently released online in the journal Environment and Behavior.
For the study, Gregory Privitera, an assistant professor of psychology at St. Bonaventure University in New York, and Heather Creary, an undergraduate student there, recruited 96 college students and offered them fruits and vegetables. Apple slices and baby-cut carrots were put in either clear or opaque bowls and placed on tables that were close to the participants or on a table about 6.5 feet away.
The students were left alone with the food for 10 minutes. During that time, the study revealed, they were more likely to eat the fruits and vegetables when they were placed close to them. Making the food more visible made the students eat more apples, but not carrots. The researchers suggested that the fact that fruit is sweeter may have spurred more motivation to eat the apples.
"Apples, but not carrots, have sugar, which is known to stimulate brain reward regions that induce a 'wanting' for foods that contain sugar," the study authors explained in a journal news release. "Hence, apple slices may be more visually appealing than carrots."
The findings could offer colleges and universities ideas on how to improve the layout of their dining halls to promote healthy eating among students.
"Many dining facilities on college campuses are structured in a buffet," the researchers noted. Placing healthy foods closest to seating areas or entrances and visible, such as in open containers at the front of the buffet, could increase intake of these foods among college students, they said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about eating fruits and vegetables.