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Emily Heying, Nutrition


Background: Nutrition Facts labels are a low-cost informational tool with the potential for encouraging healthful purchasing and eating habits. The use of nutrition labels on packaged foods can promote healthier dietary choices; however, systematic reviews show that consumers may not frequently use nutrition labels to make food choices and do not effectively measure an appropriate serving size, leading to nutrient over-/underconsumption. Objective: The goal of this study was to investigate how female college students use the Nutrition Facts label and measurement tools to estimate one recommended serving size, and if varying nutrition education tools improve serving size accuracy in this population. Methods: Participants (females, age 18-24, n=32) completed a serving size assessment and survey regarding Nutrition Facts label use at baseline (pre-) and post-intervention. After baseline testing, participants were randomly assigned to an educational treatment group (social media, handout, or video) or control group for one week before returning for post-intervention data collection. Results: The overall accuracy of serving size estimation among most foods in the assessment did not improve by time or treatment options; Cheerios was the exception and improved in accuracy over time (p=0.017). During baseline assessment, the analysis revealed that for five of the eight foods assessed, utilization of the packaging did not improve the accuracy of the portioned serving size. Participants in treatment groups Strongly Agreed (41%) and Agreed (41%) that their assigned educational material was beneficial to their ability to accurately estimate a serving size. Of the participants (n=14) who reported “Strongly Agree” when assessing how beneficial the assigned education material was for estimating serving size accuracy, the majority of these responses (36%) were from the handout treatment group. Conclusion: Comprehension of serving sizes was influenced by the clarity of the nutrition label, unit of measurement, and the interest of the individual to use serving sizes. There remains a need for further investigation on the most effective nutrition education method(s) for improvement of serving size accuracy in specific populations.

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