Dietary Changes Among First Year University Students: The Peer-to-Peer (P2P!) Nutrition Project

April Tallant*, Brenda Marques, Nicole Martinez
103 Balsam Hall, Western Carolina University, United States.

© 2015 Tallant et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to these authors at the 103 Balsam Hall, Western Carolina University, United States; Tel: 828-227-3276; Fax: 828-479-6747:;


Research is lacking in whether college nutrition courses lead to dietary improvements. Literature indicates that behavioral theory-based interventions can lead to nutritional improvements and that motivational interviewing and peer teaching can be effective for student-learning, but interventions combining these findings is scarcely reported in the literature. The purpose of this study was to evaluate dietary and nutrition self-efficacy changes among first year students (n=35) throughout a semester enrolled in a first-year university personal nutrition seminar course; and to assess whether intervention method (motivational interviewing versus traditional nutrition education) delivered by peers, impacted kilocalories, total fat, saturated fat and nutrition self-efficacy as reported at the end of the semester. Students completed pre-and post-measures including three-day food records, diet analyses, and surveys, and were randomly assigned to meet with peer nutrition counselors (upper division nutrition majors) who conducted sessions using either motivational interviewing or traditional nutrition education. Paired t-tests showed decreases in kcals, total fat, and saturated fat for the motivational interviewing group from pre-to-post-measure, but differences were not statistically significant (P>.05). The traditional nutrition education group showed statistically significant decreases in kcals, total fat, and saturated fat (P<.05) from pre-to-post-measure. Differences in nutrition self-efficacy for the motivational interviewing group was statistically significant (P<.05), but was not for the traditional nutrition education group (P>.05) from pre-to-post-measure. When comparing statistically significant changes in diet and nutrition self-efficacy between the two intervention techniques, analysis of covariance showed no statistically significant differences in kilocalories, total fat, saturated fat or nutrition self-efficacy at post-measure (P>.05), therefore, intervention technique did not impact dietary or nutrition self-efficacy changes. Additionally, student perceptions of the peer-to-peer intervention used to attempt dietary change was evaluated. Positive perceptions of the peer-to-peer nutrition project indicated that the project is a viable teaching methodology and may be used by registered dietitians employed in various settings, particularly in other universities teaching similar types of nutrition courses. Results showed that incorporating peer-to-peer nutrition education in university courses may be effective in facilitating dietary changes and improved nutrition self-efficacy in college freshman.

Keywords: College student nutrition, motivational interviewing, peer-teaching.