"Nutrition facts" label use in the selection of healthier foods by undergraduate students

Document Type



Master of Science (MS)


Dietetics and Nutrition

First Advisor's Name

Nancy S. Wellman

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Paulette Johnson

Third Advisor's Name

Susan P. Himburg

Date of Defense



Use of "Nutrition Facts" panel on food labels was studied in the selection of healthier substitutes for foods normally consumed by 276 undergraduates, mean age, 19.7+2.5 years. Among 1095 label pairs (3.97 per student), 80.6% included a "healthier" substitute. Most common food categories were cookies/bars/tarts (12.8%), cereal (11.8%), chips/crackers (11.1%), beverages (10.2%) and breads/muffins (9.1%). Up to three errors were recorded per label pair, with 384 total errors made, including failure to adjust for serving size (34%), use of pre-NLEA labels (30%), comparison of unlike foods (16%) and unclear comparisons or missing labels (19%). Among 3295 nutrient comparisons, total fat (23.6%), calories (18.4%) and sodium (11.7%) were cited most often. Substitutes were a little (1-10% difference) to a lot healthier (>51% difference) for 83% of nutrients. Sixty percent would purchase healthier foods again or look for other substitutes and 47% stated they preferred the substitute's taste or thought it equivalent.



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