Students choose food based on taste, convenience, price

Caroline Cummings

University students make decisions about what to eat based on three factors: taste, convenience and price, nutritional sciences professor Marissa Epstein said.

“We’re all making food decisions constantly over the day — whether you eat three meals or snack throughout the day or a combination of both,” Epstein said. “The dining options could reflect the variety of food cultures, dining experiences and health aspirations students have.”

Epstein said she thinks getting students involved with planning new options and putting dining experiments into action is a great way to create a food environment students enjoy. 

Sotear Kuy, a registered dietitian with University Housing and Dining, said UT has two focus groups — the University Residence Hall Association and a vegetarian and vegan focus group — that provide students with the opportunity to influence what foods University Housing and Dining serves.

“Our groups serve as a platform that represents the voice for all students,” Kuy said. “(Students give feedback) on current food options and voice their opinions on the types of food they would like to see.”


Business honors freshman Jagrithi Nenawati said she chooses to eat healthy foods to feel more energetic, especially after working out.

“I feel like healthy options fuel me better for long days and help keep me awake,” Nenawati said. “Unhealthy food options are more attractive when I’m feeling stressed, and I tend to choose comfort foods as a way to deal during times where I have a lot of schoolwork.” 

Public health freshman Adriana Banchs said she chooses what to eat based on the healthy food options served and how much unhealthy food she’s recently eaten.

“If the daily options don’t appeal to me very much, I usually eat something unhealthy, like the pizza,” Banchs said. “If I’ve been eating a lot of pizza, I make sure I eat a lot of veggies the next days.”

For students who are interested in eating healthier, Kuy recommends using the online menu to navigate food options or speaking with a dietitian.

“We can sit down with students one-on-one and build a healthy plate, and we also look at where the student lives and the food offerings there,” said Kuy. “(Our) goal is provide options, but students still need to make the choice to choose healthy food option. We provide resources to make informed decisions.”