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How well will your kid eat at university?

What'll it be? A large slice of lasagna, dripping with cheese, ground beef and garlicky sauce or a stop at the build-your-own-salad bar?

For many post-secondary students in their first year, it's going to be option number one. If mom's not around, why not?

A new study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior suggests many post-secondary students aren't eating one serving of fruits or vegetables a day - a far cry from the recommendation of five servings per day in the U.S. and seven to eight in Canada.

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Researchers from Oregon State University surveyed 582 students - many in their first year and presumably living on campus - about their eating habits and found that few prioritized balance when they chose their meals and snacks.

Males consumed more fat but averaged five fruit and vegetable servings per week, while female students consumed more fibre but fewer servings of fruit and veggies altogether, at four per week.

More than one-third of their calories consumed came from fat - that juicy cheeseburger, or the bag of chips from the vending machine - versus healthier sources such as a side of steamed broccoli.

One of the study's authors points out previous research shows people tend to eat healthier, well-rounded meals when they cook at home. Few dorms, especially for first-year students, come equipped with full kitchens so students tend to eat at campus dining halls or nosh on fast food (which, as previous studies have shown, contributes to the infamous "Freshman 15" weight gain).

While many post-secondary institutions that offer on-campus living recommend first-year students go on meal plans to ease the transition into campus life, are students better off living in spaces where they cook their own meals?

Or would they just adopt a steady diet of ramen and mac and cheese if left to fend for themselves?

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About the Author

Dakshana Bascaramurty is a national news reporter who writes about race and ethnicity. She won a 2013 National Newspaper Award in beat reporting for her coverage of changing demographics in the 905 region. Previously, she was a feature writer for Globe Life. More

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