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1. Issues faced by college
students: a participatory action

2. Exploring Junk Food

Consumption in College
Students: Planning and
executing interventions for
healthier eating habits

Exploring Junk Food Consumption in College Students: Planning and executing
interventions for healthier eating habits
Akshita Bhat
B.A. (H) Psychology
Indraprastha College for Women
University of Delhi

The research aimed at the consumption pattern of junk food among college students and
developing an intervention to increase aware and the propensity towards a healthy lifestyle in the
students. The participants of the study included 10 participants, 18-21 year old females, who
were students of Indraprastha College for Women (n=10). A semi-structured questionnaire was
administered using the pre-test-post-test questionnaire as a tool to understand the level of
awareness of the students about the adverse health effects of junk food as well as chart the
impacts that an intervention may have. Descriptive statistics was used to analyze the responses.
Results indicated that while students were relatively aware of the effects of junk food they had
not necessarily adopted healthy lifestyles and the intervention seemed to push them to use their
knowledge to advantage of their health.

Key Words:​ junk food consumption, college students, intervention, structured survey
questionnaire, awareness, descriptive statistics
In the fast paced life of today’s urban society, people find it difficult to maintain a routine
that consists of anything too time-consuming. Eating home-cooked meals three times a day
rarely occurs in any household. Even the knowledge of what a proper balanced meal should
consist of is often not accurate despite the overflow of information in our cyber-intensive world.
Grabbing a quick bite to eat is a time-saving mechanism used by many, however, that quick bite
causes many to reduce their life-span. Junk food has been found to cause chronic illnesses like
high cholesterol in the body and heart diseases, and type-II diabetes.

Junk food is accessible to people from all walks of life at affordable rates and its
consumption is higher than ever. To make matters worse, the lifestyle of people with the
excessive usage of electronic products and the internet actually propagates the intake of junk
food even more. The increased need for instant sense gratification increases the tendency
towards intake of junk food.

On the 10th of November, 2016 the University Grants Commission in a circular to vice
chancellors of all universities, asked them to ban the sale of junk food across all their affiliated
colleges​. This was in accordance with the letter from the Ministry of Human Resource
Development on the 20th of October in which it issued instructions against the availability and
sale of junk food in all higher education institutions. This initiative was set with the aim of
setting new standards for healthy food and making the students live better, and learn better which
would also ​reduce the obesity levels in young​ learners, thus preventing life-style diseases which
have a direct link with excessive weight (MHRD, 2016)

​With regard to this the UGC’s circular had pointers to help sensitize students about the ill
health effects of junk food, it was also requested that they maintain important data on students
health such as body mass index (BMI), percentage of body weight, waist-hip ratio etc, to conduct
orientation programs for faculty and staff on health issues, to create wellness clusters under the
Students Welfare Department by including counselling regarding nutrition, proper exercise and
healthy habits as well as to provide psychological support to the students in order to prevent and
reduce the incidence of obesity in young students.

​In recent times a similar Junk food ban was issued by Central Board of Secondary
Education (CBSE) in all schools. The ban disallowed the sale of junk food in school canteens
and even from the lunch boxes of students. It defined junk food as food with high caloric and
low nutritional content. There was no definition for Junk food in the circular by UGC or the
letter by MHRD however.

Understanding Junk Food

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) defines junk food as “items that are
high on calories, but low on nutrients”. Junk food is generally associated with food that has little
to no nutritional value and has bad effects on the body leading to obesity, hypertension, and
cholesterol problems etc. It is used for cheap food (such as food available at fast food joints) with
high levels of calories with​ ​sugar​ or ​fat​ and little ​fiber​, ​protein​, ​vitamins​ or ​minerals​.​ Junk food
contains a lot of empty calories. Such an understanding puts prepackaged foods such as chips,
cookies, cheese puffs, candy bars in this category. Certain perceptions also view pizzas and
burgers etc. or fast foods and street foods as junk however they may still contain nutritional
value. Fries, nuggets, onion rings, and Pakodas etc. contain a great amount of empty calories, in
addition to which when fried repeatedly in the same oil certain such snacks also contains
trans-fats which are incredibly harmful to health.

​In 'Encyclopedia of Junk Food and Fast Food' (2006), Andrew F. Smith defined junk food
as commercial products which have little or no nutritional value but plenty of calories, salt, and

As junk is so high in caloric content with no nutritional value, even when people have
made up for their required amount of calories in a day, or gone over it, they don’t reach
anywhere near the nutrition required by their bodies. This means that they do not have the energy
levels necessary to sustain themselves throughout the day and thus might get easily tired, be
sluggish etc.
Research has shown that what people take to be junk food varies across different regions.
This is shown in the perceptions of different neighborhoods. As shown in a study conducted by
Alola et al (2013), ​participants from high-income neighborhood were more likely to perceive
Western -style fast food ​found at large MNC’s such as McDonald’s​ as fast food, while people
from the low-income neighborhood were more likely to identify food such as ​samosas or
Pakodas sold by street vendors​ as fast food. ​Food items like pizza to be major sources of empty
calories, thus understanding them as unhealthy or junk food (e.g., ​Reedy & Krebs-Smith, 2010​;
Arya & Mishra, 2013), yet depending upon the mode of preparation these have the potential to
be very healthy and nutrient-rich. So, ​heavily processed, highly palatable and hyper-energetic
foods that are deprived of the vitamins and essential nutrients found in whole unprocessed foods
are termed as junk food.

Effects of Junk food on health

The intake of such processed fats without the necessary fibers or nutrients to metabolize
the carbohydrates can cause an increase in insulin levels. The daily intake of junk foods can take
the levels of insulin to chronic levels which in turn prompts the cells to start ignoring this
hormone causing insulin resistance. This results in diabetes and in the long term can cause all
kinds of liver problems, hypertension, and heart conditions.

​In 'Encyclopedia of Junk Food and Fast Food' (2006), Andrew F. Smith defined junk food
as commercial products which have little or no nutritional value but plenty of calories, salt, and
fats. ​He differentiated between junk and fast foods by defining fast foods as "ready-to-eat foods
served promptly after ordering". The book contains essay entries on junk and fast food and how
the American fast food phenomena has spread to different parts of the world like China. The
health effects of these types of food was particularly dramatically evidenced by Super Size Me
(2004), filmmaker Morgan Spurlock's 30-day all-McDonald's diet in which his liver suffered the
same poisoning as if he had been on an extended alcohol binge. This is known as hepatic
steatosis or fatty liver which is caused when the fat level in the liver increases from the normal
5-10% of the organ’s weight. While this was traditionally caused by extended abuse of alcohol,
in fact non-alcoholic fatty liver can be more harmful in the initial stages, eventually both lead to
scarring and cirrhosis.

Obesity and related disorders are on the increase. According to a report by WHO, around
one billion human individuals were classified as overweight worldwide in 2003 and 300 million
were obese. Obesity affects populations increasingly earlier in life with around 22 million
children under the age of 5 years being classed as overweight. Men and women are apparently
differently affected. The obesity rate tends to be greater in women. Obesity and overweight are
associated with a range of disorders such as type 2 diabetes and CVD and are causing increasing
concerns in both the Western and developing worlds.

During adolescence due to the fact that there is a sudden and dramatic spurt of growth in
terms of height and other developments, adequate nutrition etc. is extremely important. Thus in
this age if children keep unhealthy diets then it affects their growth and can cause various
physical and psychological problems. Proper nutrition is necessary for regulated hormones and
appropriate growth. Junk food can as such even cause emotional disturbance in adolescents. Junk
food can cause depression in teenagers according to Andrew F. Smith. The hormonal changes
during puberty can cause mood swings and behavioral problems. A balanced regulated diet can
help in keeping even levels of hormones while junk foods can contribute to their increase and
doesn’t contribute in their regulation whatsoever. Due to various lifestyle factors like breakfast
skipping, increased energy intake and consequently, poor dietary choices, adolescents tend to be
at particularly high-risk for excessive weight gain during the transitional phase to adulthood
(Gopal, et al 2012). Obesity undoubtedly has numerous psychological, physical and economic
consequences, including conditions such as Type II DM, hypertension and hypercholesterolemia
(Antony & Bhatti, 2013).

According to the American Journal of Psychiatry, loading up on unhealthy foods can lead
to depression, anxiety disorders and Dysthymia.

Specially on young women

Junk food as shown above has adverse effects on the mood of adolescents. The hormonal
changes during this time can also in young women going through puberty, affect their menstrual
cycles. Studies have shown that PCOS or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is rising in teenage girls
these days. It affects 5% to 10% of women in their reproductive age. This results in irregular
menstruation, hormonal imbalance causing acne and excessive hair growth. Obesity is one of the
main reasons of the rise of PCOS. The intake of processed junk food with low fiber and
nutritional content slows the metabolism of the body which leads to fat storage, this coupled with
high stress levels and no exercise can cause great hormonal imbalance. PCOS can also lead to

In a study conducted by Pramanik et al. (2014),​ ​it was found that there was a significant
adverse effect of fast food intake on menstrual health status. The frequency of fast food intake
with menstrual abnormalities and dysmenorrhea were found to be significantly correlated and
these were found to be frequent in adolescent. In girls those take fast food regularly developed
menarche in early ages.

In addition to this, the intake of Junk food without any iron, protein, magnesium etc. also
increases the risk of conditions caused by the lack of proper nutrition. Brittle bones due to low
calcium, iron is necessary for the production of healthy red blood cells which are necessary for
proper brain development.

Importance of healthy diet/ eating

The diseases, risks and trauma both physical and psychological caused by junk food
mentioned above are the primary concerns of individuals that look towards keeping a healthy
diet. To avoid the complications given in the previous sections maintaining a healthy diet is
pivotal. Healthy foods help in regulating the bodily functions and our hormones etc. all of which
helps to maintain a better level of performance in life and greater psychological health. A healthy
and balanced nutrient containing diet is pivotal to cut down the risk of obesity disorders and to
increase physical health (V​on, Ebert, Ngamvitroj, Park & Kang, 2004;​ Gopal et al., 2012​). ​A
nutritious, well-balanced diet constituting more of high-quality proteins, carbohydrates,
heart-healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals along with minimized consumption of processed foods,
saturated fats and alcohol is the key to good health. The fiber in whole grains, fruits and
vegetables keep individuals full longer than foods that are loaded with sugar that make you feel
full without providing any real energy. Junk foods also lower your metabolism, all of which
contributes to a drowsy, sluggish feeling throughout the day.

American Journal of Psychiatry says that unhealthy foods can lead to depression, anxiety
disorders and dysthymia while higher consumption of fruits and vegetables is associated with
lower levels of depressive symptoms among females (Mikolajczyk, Maxwell, Naydenova, Meier
et al., 2008).

Salt intensive diets with high fat, low fiber and nutrition content place young people at a
significantly higher risk of acquiring certain chronic illnesses, especially cardiovascular diseases
and certain forms of cancer (Story & Resnick, 2000). There is some evidence to suggest that
appetite and body mass can be influenced by maternal food intake during the fetal and suckling
life of an individual. A maternal junk food diet during pregnancy and lactation may be an
important contributing factor in the development of obesity as shown in a study conducted on
rats. (Ste´phanie A. Bayol*, Samantha J. Farrington and Neil C. Stickland, 2007). Thus it is
important to inculcate the habit of healthy eating in mothers and children at a young age so that
they do not develop a propensity towards junk food which in turn would cause a great crop

Health psychology
​The definition of health proposed by the World Health Organization (1946) is: “Health is a
state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or

​Health Psychology is a branch of Applied Social Psychology which studies the various
psychological aspects that can, or do have, an influence on the physical health of individuals. It
is concerned with how better health habits can be encouraged, how psychological and social
factors might influence one's likelihood of becoming ill, and how knowledge from the discipline
of Psychology can be used to help those who are already suffering from illnesses (Schneider,
2012). Division 38 of the American Psychological Association is the society of Health
Psychology which defines it as "Health Psychology seeks to advance contributions of
psychology to the understanding of health and illness through basic and clinical research,
education, and service activities and encourages the integration of biomedical information about
health and illness with current psychological knowledge."

Health psychology first appeared in the 1970s and rose to popularity mainly during the
1980s when few universities began offering it as undergraduate courses. Rise in prevalence of
chronic illnesses like hypertension, diabetes, heart diseases etc often caused by lifestyle habits
and a consequent need for dealing with psychological aspects of these illnesses, rise in cost of
healthcare technology as well as decline in popularity of a traditional biomedical model, all
contributed to the popularity of this discipline (Schneider, 2012).

Health psychology can be further explained through the biopsychosocial model and the
biomedical model.

​Biomedical model.
Biomedical model, a theoretical framework based on an idea that attempts to completely
explain illness by identifying problems in an organism's bodily biological functioning and until
late. Its understanding of health elucidated a simple absence of disease and was important in the
discovery of numerous specific disease causing bacteria, viruses and so on which gave impetus
to advancement of life saving technology developments.
It is a Western system of medical diagnosis that addresses solely physiological factors,
excluding the possible effects of psychological or social factors. It believes that psychological
and social factors have no bearing on biological factors, choosing to rely mainly on lower level
processes of the biological body such as cell functioning, biochemical imbalances,
neuro-physiological abnormalities etc. However as this failed entirely to account for individual
differences this model was eventually seen as too reductionist and the need ot a broader
framework was felt, which was found in the Biopsychosocial model.

​Biopsychosocial model
According to the ​biopsychosocial​ model, it is the interaction of biological, psychological,
social factors that leads to a given outcome—each component on its own is incomplete and
doesn’t give the proper foundation of illness. The psychological component of the
biopsychosocial model tries to find a psychological foundation for a particular symptom or
symptom type like impulsivity, irritability, overwhelming sadness, etc. A particular set of
stressful events such as the death of a family member etc. form social and cultural factors. These
may have different impacts the mental health of people from different social environments and

It emphasizes both health as well as illness, thus considering health as achieved by

attending to one's biological, psychological and social needs rather than illness being a deviation
from an already existing state of health (Taylor, 2009).

Factors affecting consumption of Junk food

-Social Variables & health: Family, peer & media effects
-Personal Variables
There are various influences on individuals that cause them to consume junk food. These
vary across regions and family dynamics, peer and media effects as well as individual
differences. In a study conducted by Manning et al. (2003), it was found that adolescents’ higher
consumption of fruits, vegetables, and dairy foods was positively associated with parental
presence at the evening meal. ​Neumark-sztainer​ et al. (2007), it was found that adolescents in
homes with fewer than 3 junk-food family meals per week were significantly more likely than
adolescents in homes with more junk-food family meals to report having vegetables and milk
served with meals at home. Thus different family types report different influences on the food
intake patterns in individuals.​ It has been found that children and adolescents whose social
networks (parents and schoolmates) comprise overweight individuals are more likely to
underestimate their own weight and develop inaccurate perceptions of what constitutes
appropriate weight status.

There are also correlations between the advertising of foods with low nutritional value and
the rate of childhood obesity. In a study conducted by Chou et. al, the 1979 Child-Young Adult
National Longitudinal Survey of Youth and the 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth
were employed to estimate the effects of television fast-food restaurant advertising on children
and adolescents with respect to being overweight. It was found that a ban on these
advertisements would reduce the number of overweight children ages 3-11 in a fixed population
by 18 percent and would reduce the number of overweight adolescents ages 12-18 by 14 percent.

As part of their efforts to create a total advertising environment, companies continue to

aggressively market in school to children and youth. Advertisers now routinely blur the
boundaries between editorial content and advertising in an effort to thoroughly infuse childhood
with marketing messages (Molnar et. al., 2009). This shows that educational institutions also
expose people to such stimuli consistently.

Individuals differ in terms of their personal tastes, tenacity, circumstances etc. Their
personal vision of body-image, what constitutes as healthy, nutrition, locus of control etc. makes
a huge difference in their health and their propensity towards health.

Promoting Health
Promoting good health in people starts with the evaluation of the causal factors of bad
health. Psychologists work to find the varied dimensions behind such behavior and as such
promoting health behavior could center around either facilitating behavioral tendencies towards
good health habits such as balanced diets fulfilling the nutritional requirements of people,
exercise etc. or on disengaging people from their bad health habits. The identification of various
biological, social and psychological factors helps in this process.

Changing health behavior

Several models have been proposed and adopted to explain and change the dynamics of
health behavior and to guide intervention efforts. Theory of planned behavior, the Social Norm
Theory, and Health Belief Model are among others

Theory of planned behavior. ​The Theory of Planned Behavior (Ajzen,1991) is based on

the earlier Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA) which said that behavior is determined by
behavioral intention. Intention to act refers to the motivational factors that influence a behavior
which indicate how much effort an individual is planning to exert to perform the behavior.
Therefore, according to this theory, the way of changing ones behavior is by changing ones
behavioral intentions. Its conceptual foundation, intellectual history and the research it has
generated is from its roots in the propositional control and expectancy theory.

Intention is the immediate antecedent of behavior and is itself a function of ​attitude

toward the behavior​, ​subjective norm (​which is​ ​an individual's perception of
social ​normative​ pressures, or relevant others' beliefs that he or she should or should not perform
such behavior), and ​perceived behavioral control (​which is the degree to which the person can
control the behavior)​. These determinants follow, respectively from beliefs about the behaviors
likely consequences, about normative expectations of important others and about the presence of
factors that control behavioral performance. These three aspects influence intentions which in
turn influence behavior.

The TPB is comprised of six constructs that collectively represent a person's actual
control over the behavior.

1. Attitudes - This refers to the degree to which a person has a favorable or unfavorable
evaluation of the behavior of interest. It entails a consideration of the outcomes of
performing the behavior.
2. Behavioral intention - This refers to the motivational factors that influence a given
behavior where the stronger the intention to perform the behavior, the more likely the
behavior will be performed.
3. Subjective norms - This refers to the belief about whether most people approve or
disapprove of the behavior. It relates to a person's beliefs about whether peers and people
of importance to the person think he or she should engage in the behavior.
4. Social norms - This refers to the customary codes of behavior in a group or people or
larger cultural context. Social norms are considered normative, or standard, in a group of
5. Perceived power - This refers to the perceived presence of factors that may facilitate or
impede performance of a behavior. Perceived power contributes to a person's perceived
behavioral control over each of those factors.
6. Perceived behavioral control - This refers to a person's perception of the ease or difficulty
of performing the behavior of interest. Perceived behavioral control varies across
situations and actions, which results in a person having varying perceptions of behavioral
control depending on the situation. This construct of the theory was added later, and
created the shift from the Theory of Reasoned Action to the Theory of Planned Behavior.

The TPB has shown more utility in public health than the Health Belief Model, but it is still
limiting in its inability to consider environmental and economic influences. Over the past several
years, researchers have used some constructs of the TPB and added other components from
behavioral theory to make it a more integrated model

Health belief model.​ The health belief model (HBM) is a cognitive model which posits
that behavior is determined by a number of beliefs about threats to an individual’s well-being
and the effectiveness and outcomes of particular actions or behaviors. ​This particular theory
is ​intrapersonal​, meaning that it is based on the knowledge and beliefs of each individual
person. The HBM is used to develop preventative health programs, as well as design appropriate
intervention programs where prevention has failed.

​The history of the HBM dates back to the 1950s, when researchers and health care
providers found themselves at a loss to explain why a free, public ​tuberculosis​ screening
program had failed to attract significant participation (tuberculosis is an infectious disease that
normally affects the lungs). The HBM was developed in response to this failure.

​The HBM assumes that ​decision-making​ (a person's behaviors) occurs when the
following three ​elements​ (a person's ideas) take place:

1. Perceived susceptibility​ (often called perceived severity) is when a person recognizes a

reason to be concerned about a particular disease. In this first element, a person must
recognize a disease as something negative that could possibly harm them.
2. Perceived threat​ is when a person realizes that they may be personally vulnerable to this
particular disease. This element is contingent upon an individual's opinion as to how
likely their behavior is going to lead to a negative outcome.
3. Perceived benefits vs. perceived barriers​ encompass when a person weighs the cost of
the required behavior change against the possible benefits. A person must determine that
changing their behavior will not only improve their health, but can also be achieved
within their means.

Present Study
This study was brought about by the recent notice by MHRD asking for a ban in junk
food in higher educational institutions. The objective of the study is to understand the awareness
level among students about healthy and junk food, assess the food consumption patterns among
female college students (in self and others), as well as to plan and execute intervention to
increase awareness and healthy eating habits among the students, thus curbing the consumption
of junk food.
The propensity to consume foods that are high in caloric content and low on nutritional
value is an increasing trend all over the world today.
Junk food is accessible to people from all walks of life at affordable rates and its
consumption is higher than ever. To make matters worse, the lifestyle of people with the
excessive usage of electronic products and the internet actually propagates the intake of junk
food even more. The increased need for instant sense gratification increases the tendency
towards intake of junk food.
Encyclopedia of Junk Food and Fast Food' (2006), Andrew F. Smith defined junk food as
commercial products which have little or no nutritional value but plenty of calories, salt, and fats.
He differentiated between junk and fast foods by defining fast foods as "ready-to-eat foods
served promptly after ordering". The book contains essay entries on junk and fast food and how
the American fast food phenomena has spread to different parts of the world like China.
growth of research interest and findings related to food choices, various interventions have been
attempted by researchers to deal with this growing issue globally, especially with respect to
adolescent and young adults’ i.e. primarily college age students.
In Indian context, there is high concern towards health in twenty-rst century. There are
health related articles in daily newspapers, and health shows on television as well as the latest
notice from MHRD. This study attempts to administer an intervention along similar lines and
study its effectiveness.

A total of ten participants (Age=18 to 21 years) participated in the study exploring junk
food consumptions among college students. Ten students of Indraprastha College for Women
consisted of the sample, chosen using convenience sampling. The parameters for their selection
include an educational qualification of having passed Class 12 and comfort in English.
Pre-Test-Post-Test Design.

Tool. ​Questionnaires were used to conduct the survey under pre-test-post-test design
setting.​ ​They are one of the most commonly used methods in research and can also be tailored to
meet the needs of almost any inquiry. At its simplest a questionnaire need to be no more than a
list of questions. However, to reduce the possibility of misunderstandings to a minimum, and to
enable data to be compared across a sample, the questions are normally presented in a very
structured way. A notable feature of survey research is that, unlike an experiment or interview,
there is usually only one opportunity to collect data from each informant. It is therefore
important to make the questionnaire as clear and effective as possible (Dyer, 2000).

Two questionnaires were made for the pre and post-test design. 10 questions were used
for Section A of pre-test part and 15 questions were used for Section B which were then repeated
in the post test with the addition of 1 more question.

Design and development of the questionnaire. ​The objective of the study if to
understand the awareness and consumption level regarding and of junk food among college
students. An attempt was also made to plan and execute an intervention to increase awareness
regarding the adverse health effects caused by junk food so as to regulate its consumption and
increase the propensity towards healthy food and exercise. The design was the questionnaires
was done in such a way that it explored the awareness level and opinions related to junk food and
the consequent changes after the intervention was employed.
The pre-test questionnaire consisted of two sections. A had 10 items and B had 15 items.
The post-test questionnaire had 16 items.
Different groups worked together to formulate the questionnaires. Each item was debated
upon until it was molded as per the requirements and then made into the final questionnaire.

Planning and executing intervention. ​The intervention had to serve the purpose of
raising awareness and the measure of change in attitude also had to be measured thus it was
decided that the intervention must be applied only to the participants of the study as opposed to
the college at large. The initially proposed notions of a visual medium such as posters, skits etc.
were scrapped and instead videos on the topic were deemed suitable. So, a series of seven videos
were compiled that involve the different aspects of junk food and healthy food.

​ he participants were welcomed, and were made comfortable.

Rapport Formation.​ T
They were then provided with the rationale of the survey conducted. After it was ensured that
each participant was comfortable, instructions were given.

Data collection. ​The research team consisted of ten members. Each member was
assigned one participant. Each participant was given a brief introduction about​ ​the survey, and
they were informed about what the research aimed to tap through the survey. Instructions were
given and explained (if they didn’t understand, or had any doubts) to the participant. Participants
were requested to fill in the demographics before they begin with the survey. They were then
asked to try to answer each question, and tick the options that they thought were most correct.
The pre-test questionnaire was provided and the participants were asked to complete filling it
within 15-20 minutes. After they completed answering the questionnaire, an intervention in the
form of a video was showed, which was 21 minutes long in duration. The participants were then
provided with the post-test instructions followed by the post-test questionnaire, which they were
asked to fill.

Data analysis. ​After the completion of data collection, the analysis of the questionnaires
was done at two levels. The first level of analysis involved group level analysis of the pre-test
questionnaire for the items 1 to 10. The frequencies for this data were tabulated and represented
using bar graphs and pie charts.
The second level of analysis involved a comparative analysis of the individual responses
of the Section B of pre-test questionnaire and the corresponding questions of the post-test
questionnaire. The data was tabulated and analyzed.
Report writing. ​The report was written according to the sixth edition of APA guidelines and
format. The results were presented through tables, and graphically represented by pie charts and
bar graphs. This was followed by writing the discussion which is based on the acquired​ ​results of
the conducted survey.

Pretest Condition: Section A
Q. 1. What kind of food do you eat most often? (Mark as many applicable to you).
Responses Frequency
A. Salty Packaged Food (Chips, Crisps, etc.) 6
B. Home-made food (Rice, Vegetable, Dal, Chapati etc) 8
C. Sugary Drinks (Milkshakes, Packaged Juices, etc.) 4
D. Aerated Drinks (Coke, Pepsi, etc.) 1
E. Carb and Fat intensive Fast Food (Pizza, Pasta, 5
Spring Rolls, Aloo Tikki etc.)
F. Fresh Food (Fruits, Nuts, Salads, Fresh Juice, etc.) 5
G. Sugary Food (Brownies, Cakes, Chocolates, etc.) 3
H. Others 1

Table 1. Responses given by participants on Q.1

Figure 1.Adjacent graph representing the responses given by the total sample (n=10).
Q.2. What drink do you usually order with a meal or a snack? (Mark as many as
applicable to you).
Table 2. Responses given by participants on Q.2.
Responses Frequency
Mineral Water 2
Tea/ Coffee 4
Fruit Juice (Lemonade, etc.) 5
Milkshake 5
Coconut Water 0
Aerated Drinks 4
No Drinks 1
Others 0

Figure 2. Adjacent graph representing the responses given by the total sample (n=10).
Q.3. How many meals do you have in a day?
Table 3. Responses given by participants on Q.3.
Responses Frequency
1 0
2 1
3 6
4 or more 3

Figure 3. Adjacent graph representing the responses given by the total sample (n=10).
Q.4. Are you aware of the calorie count of the foods you eat?
Table 4. Responses given by participants on Q.4.
Responses Frequency
Always 2
Mostly 2
Rarely 4
Never 1
I don't bother 1
Figure 4. Adjacent graph representing the responses given by the total sample (n=10).

Q.5. What are the main factors that influence you to consume junk food? (Mark as many
applicable to you).
Table 5. Responses given by participants on Q.5.
Responses Frequency
Cheaper 2
Sensory Appeal (Taste, Smell, Appearance) 7

Suits your lifestyle 1

Influence of Advertisements 0
Easy and quick to prepare 5
Easily available 6
Other 0

Figure 5. Adjacent graph representing the responses given by the total sample (n=10).

Q.6. How often are you likely to exercise?

Table 6. Responses given by participants on Q.6.
Responses Frequency
Everyday 2
3-4 times a week 5
Do not exercise 3
Figure 6. Adjacent graph representing the responses given by the total sample (n=10).

Q.7. How likely are you to eat a serving of junk food (per week)?
Table 7. Responses given by participants on Q.7.
Responses Frequency
6 or more times 0
4-5 times 3
2-3 times 7
Once 0
Never 0

Figure 7. Adjacent graph representing the responses given by the total sample (n=10).

Q.8. Does sensory appeal (taste, smell, and appearance) influence the food you eat?
Table 8. Responses given by participants on Q.8.
Responses Frequency

Always 2
Mostly 8

Rarely 0

Never 0

Figure 8. Adjacent graph representing the responses given by the total sample (n=10).

Q.9. Does nutritional information influence your choice regarding the food you eat?
Table 9. Responses given by participants on Q.9.
Responses Frequency
Always 2

Mostly 6

Rarely 2

Never 0

Figure 9. Adjacent graph representing the responses given by the total sample (n=10).

Q.10. I have saved Rs. 700 by the end of this month. I plan on spending this money to eat
something during college hours. I would...
Table 10. Responses given by participants on Q.10.
Responses Frequency
Buy fresh and healthy food and snack on them 2

Buy packaged food and snack on them 0

Eat at or order from a fast food joint 0

Eat at or order from a restaurant 8

Figure 10. Adjacent graph representing the responses given by the total sample (n=10).

Individual Analysis.
Table 11. Participant's responses to questions from Pre-test questionnaire of Section B and
their responses to the Post-test questionnaire.
Question Pre-test response Post-test response
Healthy food is characterized as food 11. 1.
that... (C). Makes you Fit and (C). Makes you Fit and
Energetic Energetic
Junk food is characterized as food that… 12. (E). 2. (E).
All of the Above All of the Above
Which of the following food items can 13. 3.
be classified as junk food? (Mark as 1, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 11, 13, A, D, E, F, H, J, K, L,
many applicable to you). 14, 15, 16 M, N, O
How healthy do you think your eating 14. (B). 4. (B).
habits are? Quite healthy Quite healthy
You often say or think “how does it 15. 5.
matter what I eat!” (C). Disagree (C). Disagree
If you do enough exercise you can eat 16. (C). 6. (B).
whatever you like. Disagree Disagree
Healthy eating is just another trend/fad 17. 7.
(C). Disagree (C). Disagree
Healthy foods are enjoyable. 18. 8.
(C). Agree (B). Agree
I am aware about which foods are 19. 9.
healthy and which are not. (B). Always (B). Mostly
I am as healthy as someone my age 20. 10.
should be. (B). Agree (B). Disagree
Eating healthy food can provide me with 21. 11.
a longer life span. (B). Agree (B). Disagree
(a). I am aware of the consequences my 22. (a). 12. (a).
food choices would have on my overall (B). Agree (B). Agree
health and well-being.
Eating fresh fruits at least once during 23. 13.
the day is important for me. (A). Strongly Agree (B). Agree
I would like to bring a change in my diet 24. 14.
and lifestyle. (A). Strongly Agree (A). Strongly Agree

Q.22 (b). If your response is A. or B. in the previous question, then list the consequences.
Response: ​Eating junk food makes you fat and is bad for your health.
Q.25. Prepare a list of food items, in the space given below, which you eat during college
hours for three days.
Day 1: ​Dosa
Day 2: ​Dosa, Fresca
Day 3: ​Choco Stix, Juice

Q.12 (b). If your response is A. or B. in the previous question, then list the consequences.
Response: ​Eating junk food makes you fat and is bad for your overall health while eating
healthy foods make you fit and energetic.
Q.15 (a). Are you feeling hungry, right now?
(A) ​Yes.
Q.15 (b). If yes, prepare a list of things you would eat right now
Response:​ Dosa and Lemon Juice.
Q.16. Prepare a list of food items, in the space given below, which you eat during college
hours for three days.
Day 1: ​Idli, Juice
Day 2: ​Homemade food
Day 3: ​Dosa, Juice
The objective of this study was to understand the consumption level of junk food among
college students, test their level of awareness and ultimately plan an intervention that increases
their awareness regarding the long standing adverse health effects of junk food such that their
propensity towards a healthy lifestyle with exercise and a balanced diet increases.

A healthy diet is one that has the appropriate amount of essential nutrients, fibers, carbs
etc. without excessive fat or calories.

The first level of discussion encompasses items 1, 2, 5 of Section-A pre-test


The participant is a student at Indraprastha College for Women. She enjoys singing and
believes in the importance of regular exercise and keeping healthy. She weighs 56 kg and is of
the height 5’3”. Although she often eats ‘Home-made Food (Rice, vegetables, Dal, Chapati etc.)’
and Fresh Food (Fruits, Nuts, Salads, Freshly Squeezed Juice etc.), she also indulges herself with
‘Salty packaged Food (Chips, Crisps etc.)’

The participant usually orders ‘Tea/Coffee’ and ‘Fruit Juice’ with a meal or snack.
According to her the main factors that influence her to consume junk food are its ‘Sensory
Appeal (Taste, Smell, and Appearance)’, ‘easy and quick to prepare’ element.

The grouped discussion for the second part of this level encompasses items from 1 to
10. This level focuses on the entire assimilated responses of the total number of 11
participants that took part in the survey.
​Item 1: ​In a study conducted by Goyal et. al. on the “​Consumer perception about fast
food in India”​ it was found that the young Indian consumer has passion for visiting junk food
outlets for fun and change but home food is their primary choice. They feel homemade food is
much better than food served at junk food outlets (Goyal & Singh, 2007). This study seemed
accurate for this particular sample as well as this Item which focused on the kind of foods the
participants eat most often. The participants often prefer to have Home-made Food (Rice,
vegetables, Dal, Chapati etc.) followed by Salty packaged Food (Chips, Crisps etc.). Most of the
participants have an equal preference for carb and fat intensive food as well as fresh foods like
nuts, fruits, and salads.

Item 2​ focused on the drinks that people usually prefer to order with a meal or snack.
Though it seems apparent a total of 5 participants each prefer Fruit Juices, and Milkshakes
followed by 4 preferring aerated drinks, and Tea/Coffee, 2 Mineral Water, no one prefers
coconut water and only 1 person prefer to have no drinks at all. ​Even drinks like Juices which
may consider healthy if not freshly made contain preservatives that are very bad for health and
have a high amount of sugar and caloric content.​ A study by Malik et. al. on the relation between
the intake of sweetened drinks and weight gain by found that ​consumption of sugar-sweetened
beverages (SSBs), particularly carbonated soft drinks, may be a key contributor to the epidemic
of overweight and obesity, by virtue of these beverages' high added sugar content, low satiety,
and incomplete compensation for total energy. Thus the sample’s intake of sugary drinks with
their meals is highly unhealthy.

Item 3​ focused on the number of meals a person has in a day. Around 60% of the total
sample reported having three meals a day followed by 30% having four meals. 10% of the total
sample have two meals a day. There have been a lot of articles floating around that say having
frequent meals is better for weight loss and is more healthy in the long run however, A study
from the University of Ottawa found that on a low-calorie diet, there was no ​weight
loss​ advantage to splitting calories among six meals rather than three. A second study found that
switching from three daily meals to six did not boost calorie-burning or fat loss. In fact, the
researchers concluded, eating six meals a day actually made people want to eat more. The
advantage to eating short frequent meals lies in meal planning with fewer calories. The longer
the duration between the meals the more the likelihood that in hunger an individual eats a higher
caloric meal however if the duration between meals is shorter then hunger can be controlled and
calories regulated.

Item 4​ assessed the level of awareness regarding the calorie counts of the food items
consumed. 4 people reported rarely ever being aware followed by 2 people each reporting always
and mostly being aware. 1 person reported never being aware and 1 person reported not
bothering about calorie counts. In a study by Povey et. al. on Interpretations of healthy and
unhealthy eating, and implications for dietary change “healthy” eaters were found to perceive
“healthy eating” slightly different to “unhealthy” eaters. The results suggest that lay
understanding of healthy eating does generally conform to dietary guidelines, and therefore
health promotion priorities should focus physical and psychological constraints to healthy eating,
rather than attempting to increase the public’s knowledge as a whole.

Item 5​ dwells on the main factors that influence the people to consume junk food. 7
people state sensory appeal as the most appealing factor of junk food, followed by their easy
availability as well as its easy and quick preparation. 2 people said it was cheaper and 1 person
said it suited their lifestyle.

Item 6​ focuses on the involvement of participants in physical exercises. 50% of the total
sample workout 3 to 4 times a week followed by 30% who work out every day. Interestingly
20% of the total participants do not workout at all. According to a study by O’Dea et al (2003),
b​enefits of physical activity included social benefits, enhancement of psychological status,
physical sensation, and sports performance. Barriers included a preference for indoor activities,
lack of energy and motivation, time constraints, and social factors. Suggested strategies for
overcoming barriers included support from parents and school staff, better planning, time
management, self-motivation, education, restructuring the physical environment, and greater
variety of physical activities.

Item 7​ dwells on the likelihood of intake of junk foods in a week. 70% of the participants
reported they intake 2-3 times a week, followed by 30% participants who would have it 4-5
times. Research study by Goyal and Singh (2007) indicates that going for snacks is most
preferred time for visiting junk food outlet followed by dinner and lunch. Young consumers of
junk foods visit junk food outlets one to two times in a week or in a month.

Item 8 ​had​ ​80% of the total sample saying they ‘mostly’ care about the sensory appeal of
the food they eat followed by 20% deeming ‘always’ for the same. In a study by ​Oellingrath et al
(2013), t​he parental motive ‘sensory appeal’ was the most important for food choice, followed by
‘health’, ‘convenience’, ‘natural content’ and ‘weight control’.

Item 9​ focused on whether nutritional information influences the participants’ choice

regarding the food they eat. 60% of the total sample reported ‘mostly’ while 20% stated rarely
and 20% said they are always influenced by nutritional information. Brown et al. (2000)
emphasized the need for nutritional awareness and junk food preferences of young consumers
during adolescent years but as shown by Story et al (2002), people and especially adolescent
women are mostly aware about the nutritional information of the food they eat, but they fail to
use this information to act to make a difference.

​Item 10​ focused on a situational account where the participants’ preferences of choice
foods during college hours if they were to have extra money were assessed. Most of the
participants i.e. 80% of the sample would eat at of order from a restaurant while20% would buy
fresh and healthy food. According to the online survey from Acnielsen, more than 70% of urban
Indians consume food from take away restaurants once a month or more regularly. Out of this
70%, 37% of the adult population carry foods from take away restaurants at least once a week
(Tiwari & Verma, 2008).
The second level of discussion dwells on the comparative analysis of the
participants’ responses on the pre-test (section B) and the entire post-test ​which was
intermediated by an intervention involving a series of seven videos traversing upon the various
facets of junk as well as healthy food

The participant’s response regarding the characterization of healthy food remained same
in both the pre and post-test. According to her healthy food is characterized as food that ‘Makes
you Fit and Energetic’. This means that the participant did not gain as adequate an understanding
of healthy food as desired through the intervention.

Similarly, the response for second item followed suit. In both the tests the participant
responded similarly and characterized junk food as food that has ‘Low Nutritional Value’, ‘More
Calories’, ‘Is Fried, Spicy, or Sugary’, and ‘Is Ready to Eat or Packed’, as she marked ‘ All of
the Above.’ This means the participant was already aware of the meaning of junk food, and thus
there was no change after the intervention.

Similarly, irrespective of the intervention the participant provided the same food items
that can be classified as junk food which included Burger, Pakodas, Pizza, Samosa, Milkshake,
Chhole Bhature, Chips, Fries, Pao Bhaji, Kathi Roll, Soda. She already had an adequate
awareness of the foods that classify as junk food, although it can be noted that she did not add
noodles or chocolate to her list. This could be due to her mode of preparation as well, as in the
case of noodles.

She believed both before and after watching the video that her eating habits are ‘quite
healthy’. This means that the participant was already quite aware of her consumption patterns, as
even after the intervention she felt her eating habits were healthy. At the same time, since the
participant did not have full knowledge of what healthy food encompasses as seen in the second
item, we cannot be sure of how aware she is.
The participant seemed adequately aware enough to be in disagreement on the item that
stated she often said or thought “how does it matter what I eat!” in both the tests. Similarly she
disagreed to the statement that if one exercises regularly they can eat whatever they like, in both
questionnaires. She was aware and trusted in the importance of a healthy lifestyle before the
intervention as well but despite there being no change in her response, she probably knew the
statement to be more ridiculous after.
For the item that inquired whether​ ​eating is just another trend/fad” the participant
responded similarly both the times as “disagree”. The participant agreed that healthy foods are
enjoyable both before and after the intervention. The participant thus is a person to whom food is
an important part of life but to her good food doesn’t necessarily have to be food that is harmful.
She recognizes that even healthy food can be delicious.

The participant seemed sure about the concrete distinction between healthy and junk food
and thus responded “Always” to the item initially, however, the intervention seemed to have
made her think more deeply about that belief and she changed it to “Mostly” later. This is very
important as even unknowingly, ​when junk food is consumed very often, there is an increased
risk of​ ​obesity​,​ ​cardiovascular disease​,​ ​diabetes​, and many other chronic health conditions.
Studies reveal that as early as the age of 30, arteries clogging could begin and lay the
groundwork for future heart attacks.

An interesting change in opinion came when the participant agreed to being as healthy as
someone her age could be before the intervention and after disagreed. She followed a similar
trend when asked about whether eating healthy can provide with a longer life span, by initially
agreeing and then disagreeing to it. This seems to point towards a positive change brought by the
intervention as she now believes a healthy lifestyle overall with regulation in the diet apart from
the mere consumption of healthy food and exercise is needed for a longer life span.

For the item that assessed if the participant is aware of the consequences her food choices
would have on her overall health and well being, there was no change in her opinion as she
agreed both times. Yet it is possible that the intervention deepened her knowledge regarding the
consequences of junk food.

For the thirteenth item, the participant “strongly agreed’’ before the intervention and
“agreed” after, when asked if eating fresh fruits at least once during the day is important for her.
The intervention might have made her aware of other things that are important for a healthy
amount of nutritional intake such as vegetables with fiber content, iron, fibers etc. The
intervention thus brought about a positive orientation towards more healthy foods.

For the item “I would like to bring a change in my diet and lifestyle”, the participant was
in strong agreement both times. While no change can be seen, however, the intervention still may
have had an effect on the amount of change and urgency with which the participant wants to
change her habits. As a person that is aware of the importance of a healthy lifestyle, the
participant knew that she still had some way to go before she could be satisfied with her lifestyle,
yet the intervention should have allowed her to chart in a concrete manner the changes she

The last item in the pre-test asked her to prepare a list of food items which she eats
presently during college hours. The food was mostly healthy and included Dosa and juices etc.
but also included Choco stix and Fresca both of which are high calorie products and Fresca is a
highly processed juice. But after being exposed to the intervention, the post- test question was
tweaked a little and asked to prepare a list of food items which she wants to eat during college
hours for three days (instead of what she does eat), the participant’s choice of food items for
lunch during college hours shifted to “Idli, Juices, Dosa and Homemade food”. Therefore, the
meal she prepared for herself after the intervention was one which was healthier than the one she
prepared before. This shows that she was impacted by intervention.

The objective of the study was to study the consumption pattern of junk food among
college students and developing an intervention to increase aware and the propensity towards a
healthy lifestyle in the students. The participants of the study included 10 participants, 18-21
year old females, who were students of Indraprastha College for Women (n=10). A
semi-structured questionnaire was administered using the pre-test-post-test questionnaire as a
tool to understand the level of awareness of the students about the adverse health effects of junk
food as well as chart the impacts that an intervention may have. Descriptive statistics was used to
analyze the responses. Results indicated that while students were relatively aware of the effects
of junk food they had not necessarily adopted healthy lifestyles and the intervention seemed to
push them to use their knowledge to advantage of their health.

In a study conducted by Goyal et. al. on the “Consumer perception about fast food in
India” it was found that the young Indian consumer has passion for visiting junk food outlets for
fun and change but home food is their primary choice. They feel homemade food is much better
than food served at junk food outlets. The same was the case as represented by this study in
Section-A. The participants like homemade food but have a passion for salty packed foods as
well. It was shown that participants have started enjoying and frequenting restaurants to eat out.
Things like sensory appeal matter a lot to them. They have the propensity to order sugary drinks
with their food, tend towards the standard of 3 meals a day and are rarely aware of the calorie
counts for the foods that they consume. Most of them work out on a regular basis yet also
consume junk food fairly regularly. The majority of them are influenced by the nutritional value
of the foods they consume. This indicates that the sample while not very aware regarding the
information about the foods they consume and regular consumers of junk are also people that do
not lead sedentary lifestyles as they exercise and believe in the consumption of healthy and
homemade food. It is very problematic that they consume junk on such a regular basis because
fats get stored in the body without making themselves visible as visceral fats and this can lead to
lots of chronic diseases and the formation of plaque which leads to heart attacks.

In Section-B, the participant’s responses were recorded. The participant is a person that is
quite aware of the adverse effects of junk food and believes in leading a healthy lifestyle and
exercising regularly. She makes an effort to consume the right kind of foods and also likes eating
healthy food. She is aware that she requires changes in her lifestyle however, she consumes junk
food 2-3 times a week. She believed she was as healthy as someone could be despite
acknowledging that she required changes in her lifestyle before the intervention and after she
disagreed to the same statement pointing towards an increase in her urgency to change her
lifestyle. Even before the intervention the list of foods she said she consumes over the course of
3 days was not unhealthy in that it consisted of Dosa, Juice and Choco sticks and after the
intervention she said she would only have Idli, Dosa and Fruit Juice pointing towards a positive
change in her behavior.
The intervention thus, seems to have brought about the necessary changes in attitude and
awareness in the participants regarding junk food and a healthy lifestyle.

Limitations & Direction of Future Research

● The study was done only on girls and this provides skewed data as it doesn’t represent the
population with all their complexities and variables appropriately. This meant that it doesn’t
shed light on the consumption pattern of males at all.
● The sample used for the study (n=10) was too small to truly represent all the varying patterns
of consumption behavior. Additionally the age range of 18-21 was too restrictive.
● The sample was composed of urban educated people pursuing undergraduate degrees which
doesn’t represent the population of India with its varied socio-economic demography.
● It did not account for all the individual differences in consumption behavior patterns which
was needed for a comprehensive intervention. The methodology made it so all the responses
were objective and standardized.
● The survey was self-constructed and so might lack validity.

The subject of junk food is one that is of rising relevance in the world as the industrial,
consumerist nature of the society has resulted in the production of these harmful goods
increasing continually. Companies wage wars against each other and come up with new forms to
increase consumption and new goods with more innovative forms of harmful ingredients.
Consumption is thus increasing rapidly and this results in a population with more diseases. In
this environment, research endeavors in this field can help bring existing knowledge to the
general awareness of people. Not much research literature is available on fast food preferences of
consumers’ especially young consumers in India, which makes this a novel study. The
limitations mentioned above make for good directions so that future studies can help in bridging
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