"They are not very confident about their ability to eat a healthy diet, especially if they had to chop vegetables or go shopping. The motivation just was not strong if they were at a party or in places where there were other fun choices," explained Karen Chapman-Novakofski, professor of nutrition at the University of Illinois.

That was especially true for calcium-rich foods and the expert was concerned about that because a woman's diet in college can affect her later development of osteoporosis.

"Women optimize bone mass when they are about 18 years old so we are talking about an important time for them to be consuming calcium," she noted.

The women did feel confident about choosing low-fat foods even when it was difficult.

"It is understandable because there are many more choices when it comes to low-fat foods and women have developed strategies for dealing with high- versus low-fat choices," Chapman-Novakofski maintained.

The study explored the diet effects in 268 female college freshmen at University of Illinois.

Participants completed questionnaires that included questions about the student's predicted behaviour when she was confronted with difficult choices.

Choices included: When you are really busy with school, when you are not hungry, when you are really hungry, and when food involves a lot of work like peeling/cutting/preparing.

"We found that if a student has strategized ways to stick to a healthy diet in challenging situations, she will be more likely to be committed to her goals and to achieve them," Chapman-Novakofski concluded.

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