Adherence to Recommended Dietary Guidelines and the Relationships with the Importance of Eating Healthy in Egyptian University Students

Walid El Ansari, Anastasia Samara


Background: Little is known on the food consumption habits and adherence to dietary guidelines among young adults. We examined students’ adherence to recommended guidelines, and the associations between importance of eating healthy and guidelines adherence.

Methods: A total of 3271 undergraduates at 11 faculties, Assiut University, Egypt (2009–2010), completed a questionnaire reporting their consumption of 12 food groups; number of servings of fruits/vegetables/day; and how important it is for them to eat healthy. We employed the WHO guidelines for the Eastern Mediterranean region (WHO 2012) to compute students’ adherence to dietary guidelines for the different food groups. Chi‑square tested the differences for adherence to guidelines by gender, and the associations between the importance of healthy eating and guidelines adherence for the whole sample and by gender.

Results: Except for cereal products, no food group had an adherence
level >45%. Gender differences were observed (men had better adherence for sweets, cake/cookies, snacks, and raw vegetables but not for fast food/canned food or cooked vegetables, P < 0.001 for each). There was a signifcant positive trend between the increase of subjective importance of eating healthy and adherence to guidelines (P = 0.012–<0.001). However, this association was only for some food groups and gender dependent.

Conclusions: Across the majority of food groups we examined, this sample exhibited low adherence levels to International Nutrition Guidelines. Healthier eating educational/intervention efforts should target foods exhibiting low adherence (most food groups, particularly salad/raw vegetables, fresh fruits, dairy/dairy products, meat/sausage products); consider gender differences (females reported lower adherence across most food groups); and note the relation between adherence and subjective importance of eating healthy by food groups and gender.

Keywords: Adherence, eating healthy, feeding behavior, gender, Mediterranean region, students, vegetables and fruits

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