Food and Nutrition Sciences, 2013, 4, 715-720 Published Online July 2013 (
Food Behavior Correlated with Lifestyle Pattern and
Societal Influences in a Romanian Students Population.
Part I: Eating General Habits
Iuliana Vintila
Food Science and Engineering, Biotechnology and Aquaculture Department, “Dunarea de Jos” University, Galati, Romania.
Received May 16th, 2013; revised June 16th, 2013; accepted June 24th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Iuliana Vintila. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which
permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Input data from Students Food Behavior, Preference and Lifestyle Questionnaire conducted with 376 students from
University “Dunarea de Jos” Galati (UDJG) were analyzed from socio-demographic criteria. The sample socio-demo-
raphic characteristics of the student population were investigated beside the general food & eating habits by gender. In
the current study, most than three quart of students (76.06%) was of correct (normal) weight. Nearly 65.15% of the stu-
dents reported having regular daily breakfast. The strongest correlation of having breakfast habit is show with the regu-
lar meal behaviour [r(3, 4) = 0.242] and regular meals were associated with reduced trends for BMI [r(4, 2) = 0.055].
Keywords: Food Habits; Eating Pattern; Body Mass Index (BMI)
1. Introduction
The evident decreasing of the immune-physical status of
the students associated with serious health problem and
decreasing of academic interest & performance became a
crude reality in last decades due to societal and moral
values change. The fashionable contamination from the
occidental eating style is a reality in the past decades and
the traditional influence of family or school is minimiz-
ing and percept as old tasting.
Also, international studies have indicated that many
adolescents find it difficult to follow healthful eating rec-
ommendations and make finally the easy choice of ac-
cessible and convenience fast-food items [1,2].
The Ministry of Public Health in Romania is responsi-
ble for the health policy, regulations, health programs,
and investments in public establishments. The main regu-
latory law for healthy eating in schools is 128/2008, Law
about the interdiction of fast-food products in pre-uni-
versitary schools. In the University area, there is no legal
regulation in providing catering services, in part, because
of the university autonomy [3].
The objective of Part I research study were to investi-
gate the socio-demographic characteristics of a Roma-
nian student population (N = 376) beside the general
food & eating habits by gender.
2. Methods of Conducting Social
376 UDJG students (177 boys and 199 girls) in the age
range of 20 - 24 years random selected, complete the
questionnaire concerning activities related to eating be-
havior and lifestyle, societal influences, self-appreciation
of food behavior health & emotional impact and change
intention. The survey was conducted during the period
December 2010-January 2011 and the participation was
not compulsory. The students were assured of complete
anonymity. The volunteered youth complete the survey
in a time between 30 and 40 min. A general characteriza-
tion of the investigated group was socio-demographic
and anthropometric: age, gender, height, weight, geo-
graphic origins, international mobility and accessibility
of healthy food.
2.1. Questionnaire
A Food Behavior and Lifestyle Questionnaire (FBLQ)
were constructed to assess food behavior integrated in a
lifestyle with influences, impact and intention of food
behavior change variables. The questionnaire divided in
two parts, a quantitative part with 44 questions and a
second qualitative part with other 10 questions consisting
in perception & attitude variables.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. FNS
Food Behavior Correlated with Lifestyle Pattern and Societal Influences in a Romanian Students Population.
Part I: Eating General Habits
Lifestyle variables, food behaviors, impact & change
intention and societal influences were assessed with the
following instruments: 1) a 5-point Likert scale (“none,
never” to “very slight, a little”, “medium”, “important”,
“high”; 2) overall food behavior/lifestyle rated with a
bipolar assessment scale (negative response/positive re-
BMI was calculated using the formula BMI = weight
(kg)/height (m)2 from self-reported heights and weights.
The classification from BMI were realised in underweight
(BMI < 18), normal weight (BMI = 18 - 25), overweight
(BMI = 25 - 30) and obesity (grade I BMI = 30 - 35,
grade II BMI = 35 - 40, grade III BMI > 40).
The positive or healthy dietary habits were asses with
vegetable and fish daily consummation and the negative
or unhealthy dietary habits with the red meat, pizza, car-
bonated drinks, alcohol and coffee consummation. The
references of consummation were established according
with FAO/OMS recommendation.
The eating patterns variables were considered as fol-
lowings: breakfast, regular meals, daily energy intake,
number of family meals, eating-out meals, canteen meals,
individual preparation meals, meal alone.
2.2. Statistical Analysis
The data collected was processed using a Statistical Pack-
age for the Social Sciences SPSS Statistics 17.0 (SPSS,
Inc. Chicago, IL) and Statistical Analysis System 8.0 for
Windows (SAS Institute, Cary, NC, 1999).
3. Results
3.1. Sample Characteristics
The socio-demographic characteristics of the investigated
sample were presented in Table 1.
Boys mean age was not significantly different from
girls mean age from the same year of study (21.57 years
and 21.25 years respectively, p > 0.05). The students
sample is dominated by the first and second year of the
bachelor stage which is normal in the general distribution
of student’s population per years. The SD value is 1.31 in
boy’s group case and 1.22 in girl’s case, due to the fact
that the investigation protocol includes students from all
license level (bachelor level).
Mean BMI was significantly lower for girls group than
in boy’s case (20.85 kg/m2 vs. 23.75 kg/m2, respectively,
p < 0.05). In most cases, we identify a body mass control
more strict for the girl’s student and a restricted diet
self-imposed. BMI ranged from 12.4 to 27.3 kg/m2 in
girls and from 12.2 - 26.3 kg/m2 in boys.
The mean BMI is 23.75 in male student’s case and
20.85 in girl’s group case, with a SD of 3.45 and 2.74,
respectively. The BMI distribution from reported height
and weight values were shown in Table 2.
Table 1. General socio-demographic characterization of the students population (N = 376).
Socio-demographic characteristic Min. Max. Mean SD
Age 20 24 21.41 1.275
Personal revenue/month (Euro) 0 380.9 91.2 60.43
Body mass index (BMI) 14 42 22.21 3.42
Family revenue/month 83.3 1904.7 486.1 244.8
Family extent 1 9 3.63 1.07
ASP/day (Euro) 0 14.3 3,74 2.31
N = 376
International mobility (number of visited countries) 0 9 1.19 1.67
Age 20 24 21.57 1.31
Personal revenue/month (Euro) 11.9 380.9 105.5 68.6
Body mass index (BMI) 16.97 42.48 23.75 3.45
Family revenue/month 83.3 1905 508.1 256.1
Family extent 1 9 3.54 1.00
ASP/day (Euro) 0 20.8 3.99 2.1
NB = 177
International mobility (number of visited countries) 0 9 1.34 1.71
Age 20 24 21.25 1.22
Personal revenue/month (Euro) 0 357.1 77.8 48.5
Body mass index (BMI) 13.84 34.35 20.85 2.74
Family revenue/month 83.3 1904.7 453 232.6
Family extent 1 9 3.71 1.12
ASP/day (Euro) 0 14.3 3.5 2.5
GIRLS NF = 199
N F = 199
International mobility (number of visited countries) 0 9 1.06 1.62
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. FNS
Food Behavior Correlated with Lifestyle Pattern and Societal Influences in a Romanian Students Population.
Part I: Eating General Habits
Table 2. Socio-demographic characteristics depending on sample gender (N = 376).
Socio-demographic characteristics Total Boys (%) Girls (%) Statistic values chi-square/df/p
Gender 100 47.07 52.93 -
Marital status
Married 1.32 1.12 1.5
Single 98.88 98.88 98.5
Geographic origin
Moldavia 42.02 34.46 48.74
South 39.62 44.06 35.67
East 10.37 12.42 8.54
Underweight 6.38 2.25 10.06
Normal Weight 76.06 68.36 82.91
Overweight 15.15 24.85 6.53
Obesity grade I 2.15 3.95 0.50
Obesity grade II 0 0 0
Obesity grade III 0.26 0.59 0
International mobility
None foreign country visited 6.38 42.37 53.26
1-2 visited countries 32.97 35.59 30.65
More than 2 visited countries 10.37 22.04 16.09
Healthy food accessibility (in financial way)
Low 49.46 51.97 47.24
High 50.54 48.03 52.76 14.16/15/0.51
About 6.38% of the students were under normal
weight, most of them were girls. Most students (76.6%)
were of the correct weight. A significant percentage
(15.15%) was overweight, 2.15% show the characteristic
BMI for grade I obesity and a boy is in morbid obesity
The personal revenue is raported as academic specific
grant (social or for academic performance) and the other
constant money inputs from jobs, familiy or friends. The
mean personal revenue is 91.20 Euros in a month. The
family revenue does not include the student personal
revenue, only money inputs from the parents and constant
other family providers were considered. The family reve-
nue is highly polarisated in a range between 83.3 and
1905 Euro for a number of family member of 3.63 in
medium case. In mean per total sample, 21.7% from
family revenue is transfered to the student. The daily
average spend power (ASP) as personal daily spend on
food (not provided by the familiy) is 3.74 euro, slighly
increase in case of male students (3.99 euros).
The overall influence generated by the international
mobility assessed by the number of foreign visited coun-
tries is important, the mean value were 1.19, differenti-
ated for male students 1.34 and girls 1.06.
3.2. General Eating Habits
The general eating habits of investigated sample were
presented in Table 3 and the gender differences in Tables
4 and 5.
The mean number of daily meals is 3.88 (SD is 1.30),
including snack meals. The mean number of snack meal
is 2.79 (1.68 snack meal at school), significant parts of
the daily food intake were represented by rapid meal in
the school break times which replace the principal meal
of the day. The mean hour of last meal is 20.47, late in
the night because students have a night life due to the
academic program extended until 5-6 p.m. The habit of
having meal in the university canteen is underdeveloped;
the mean meals consumed were 6.22/month, 1.55 meals/
The level of socialization by having meal together is
represented with the number of out meals per months
which was modest 3.06, slightly greater in boy’s case
3.33 than in girl’s case 2.79.
The dramatically value of meals alone (in average 7.48
per total sample, much more 8.67/week in boys case) is
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. FNS
Food Behavior Correlated with Lifestyle Pattern and Societal Influences in a Romanian Students Population.
Part I: Eating General Habits
Table 3. Sample food and eating general habits.
Characteristics N Min. Max. Mean SD
Meals per day 376 1 10 3.88 1.30
Snacks meal per day 376 0 20 2.79 2.24
Hour of last meal 376 16 24 20.47 1.99
Coffee consummation (ml) 376 0 500 53.23 77.47
Red meat consummation(g/day) 376 0 500 132.84 107.41
White meat consummation(g/day) 376 0 1000 171.39 101.00
Fish consummation (g/day) 376 0 500 106.05 99
Vegetable consummation (g/day) 376 0 1500 331.01 225.24
Canteen meals per month 376 0 60 6.22 8.35
Snack meals at school 376 0 20 1.68 1.59
Breakfast duration(min.) 376 0 120 11.32 9.61
Lunch extent (min.) 376 0 100 20 10.64
Dinner extent (min.) 376 0 100 21 11.60
Out meals per month 376 0 30 3.06 2.90
Self-cooked meals 376 0 40 3.71 4.56
Meal alone 376 0 90 7.48 8.33
Table 4. Male group sample food and eating gener a l habits.
Characteristics NB Min. Max. Mean SD
Meals per day 177 2 10 4.04 1.49
Snacks meal per day 177 0 20 2.81 2.25
Hour of last meal 177 16 24 21.11 2.06
Coffee consummation (ml) 177 0 500 58.70 82.37
Red meat consummation (g/day) 177 0 500 168.64 109.55
White meat consummation (g/day) 177 0 500 154.52 94.20
Fish consummation (g/day) 177 0 400 94.07 94.10
Vegetable consummation (g/day) 177 0 1500 288.25 191.87
Canteen meals per month 177 0 60 8.02 9.47
Snack meals at school 177 0 15 1.76 1.57
Breakfast duration (min.) 177 0 120 11.29 11.60
Lunch extent (min.) 177 0 100 21.53 11.56
Dinner extent (min.) 177 0 100 22.60 13.52
Out meal per month 177 0 30 3.33 3.03
Self-cooked meals 177 0 90 3.01 7.04
Meal alone 177 0 90 8.67 9.85
Table 5. Girl group sample food and eating general habits.
Characteristics NF Min. Max. Mean SD
Meals per day 199 1 6 3.75 1.10
Snacks meal per day 199 0 20 2.75 2.24
Hour of last meal 199 16 24 19.91 1.74
Coffee consummation (ml) 199 0 500 48.09 72.56
Red meat consummation (g/day) 199 0 500 100.33 94.89
White meat consummation (g/day) 199 0 1000 185.78 104.85
Fish consummation (g/day) 199 0 500 116.53 102.02
Vegetable consummation (g/day) 199 0 1000 368.39 245.26
Canteen meals per month 199 0 50 4.63 6.82
Snack meals at school 199 0 20 1.60 1.61
Breakfast duration (min.) 199 0 30 11.31 7.42
Lunch extent (min.) 199 0 60 18.47 9.57
Dinner extent (min.) 199 0 60 18.98 9.27
Out meals per month 199 0 20 2.79 2.76
Self-cooked meals 199 0 20 3.59 3.39
Meal alone 199 0 40 6.46 6.54
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. FNS
Food Behavior Correlated with Lifestyle Pattern and Societal Influences in a Romanian Students Population.
Part I: Eating General Habits
an important sign of lack of satisfaction toward the actual
commercial catering and canteen offer, associated with
the reduced average spend power. The mean value of self-
cooked meal sustain this conclusion, 3.59 meals per week
were cooked by the girls and 3.01 by the male students.
The average consummation of healthy foods such fish
is about 106.05 g/day, vegetables 331.01 g/day and white
meat 171.39 g/day. The red meat is also preferred with a
mean consummation of 132.84 g/day.
The extent of the principal meals is also an important
lifestyle marker, the mean duration of the breakfast were
11.32 min., lunch 20 min. and dinner 21 min.
4. Discussion and Conclusions
In the current study, more than three quarts of investigated
sample (76.06%) was of correct (normal) weight. Nearly
65.15% of the students reported having regular daily
breakfast. This every day meal pattern is consistent with
the traditional European three meals day model. The
present results are also consistent with a study that
reported that 84% of French students 62.2% of British
students and 76% of all EU students had breakfast every
day [4-8].
6.38% of the students were underweight and a signifi-
cant percentage (15.15%) was found to be overweight.
Contrary, in a Turkey study, 12.5% of students was
found to be underweight and 6.2% overweight [9,10].
In present study research, there was only one obese
student, a boy (1/376). The prevalence of obesity reported
here is in the range of 15% to 30% presented in a USA
and Canada study conducted on children and adolescents
The girls show a more tight body mass control because
they attempt to attain the contemporary ideal of being
thin and physically fit. The results are in line with [14],
which reports that girls are more concerned about weight
control and more motivated to adopt restrictive diets. The
greatest influences in the present study were reported in
family case (47.35%) result confirmed by other recent
studies [15-19].
In the present study, BMI values did not differ across
gender groups in the normal-pondered weight range, but
significant differences were reported in under and over-
weight cases. This result is compatible with a study car-
ried out in Mexico showing that there was no important
difference between girls’ and boys’ BMIs [2].
The values pattern of Romanian adolescents has dra-
matically changed during the last twenty years after the
1989 revolution, with preference toward static activities
(television‚ moving, computer surfing) associated with
fashionable and accessible fast food. The author percep-
tion is that the fast food culture is viewed as a “windows”
toward the developed countries and an easy & accessible
way to escape from a society which give them a less val-
orisation, few motivations and no secure future. The illu-
sion of being there, in a successful culture, gives the
temptation to accessible and convenient fast food, which
represents a strong symbol of occidental democratic val-
The charged academic program started in general at 8
a.m. and finished at 17 p.m. encourage snacking and in
the absence of a resident canteen and meal break, there is
no lunch. The breakfast is no more a fashionable habit
and most of the students make no direct correlation be-
tween their academic performance and eating habits. The
concern for the underweight is major for the girls and
their daily eating menus are restricted and monotone.
Because of the chaotic eating pattern, without fixed
meals and well structured cycled menus, the prevalence
of the underweight for the girls and obesity in boy’s case
is in an increasing trend and represent a sign of worries
in the modern society.
5. Acknowledgements
The author is thankful to Irina Odagiu who carried out
the field work.
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