Instant noodles and baked beans damaging student health

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 27th May 2010

A survey of 811 students in Brisbane suggests that the cash-strapped student diet of baked beans and two-minute noodles is putting students at a greater risk of developing chronic diseases.

Dr Danielle Gallegos and Kai Wen Ong, of Queensland University of Technology, surveyed the eating habits of the students, finding that one in four had experienced ‘food insecurity’ – difficulty accessing nutritious food – one in 20 saying they were ‘repeatedly hungry’ and two thirds eating less than two serves of fruit a week. 4% ate no fruit at all. 80% of ‘food insecure’ student reported that their studies were compromised as a result.

“Uni students are not the first group that come to mind when we think about food insecurity, but our study has highlighted that many find it hard to access nutritious foods. And around half of these students reported their household income before tax to be below $600 a week,’ said Dr Gallegos. According to Dr Gallegos, cash-strapped students prioritise Uni fees, accommodation and bills – and discretionary expenses like food are often seen as less important,” said Gallegos.

She said vulnerable groups tend to eat more fast foods or energy-dense foods, like take-aways, as these are often viewed as more affordable and filling.

According to Dr Gallegos, low income groups who find it difficult to eat a healthy, balanced diet are more likely to be either overweight or underweight, and are at a greater risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

‘There seems to be an acceptance out there that getting by on less nutritious food is a typical part of being a Uni student. But a diet of baked beans and instant noodles is not good enough when health and academic results are at stake. This culture is counterproductive to Australia becoming a ‘smart’ country,’ said Dr Gallegos.