This study involved 106 students from medical, nursing and pharmacy students. Our students reported high acceptance of MyPlate intake. Although MyPlate use was less common among smokers and students with lower household income. Physical activity was higher among students who were interested in MyPlate. However, use of MyPlate was not related to nutritional problems, desire to increase or decrease in weight. Age, obesity and intake of vegetables were not different according to MyPlate use.
In our study there was a wide acceptance and use of MyPlate despite the fact, students showed it was hard to translate that into practical changes, but they showed high intake of fruits and vegetables. In one study American who are vegetables lovers were more likely to use of MyPlate and find it useful(9). In a study among Americans across USA, 25-45 Y knowledge of MyPlate was not very common, only 20% reported they knew it, only 30-40% of those who knew it reported trying to use it and healthy eating index was not related to use of MyPlate(10). Compared to those, our students were given practical tutorial on the use of MyPlate to improve dietary practices which justifies the striking difference in the use of MyPlate between our study and the one by Gray et al. In a study among medical student in King Abdulaziz university, students dietary habits were generally of low quality, smoker students had the poorest dietary habits which, in our study smoker students were less likely willing to use MyPlate to guide their dietary patterns(11). In another study in Dammam, medical students reported eating fast food at high frequency, more than 3 times per week, students in this study reported high consumption of soft drinks and low consumption of fruits and vegetables despite their knowledge of health consequences of such habits(12). Other studies from different countries also reported poor dietary practices among medical students(13). The nursing students in this study had similar rate of acceptance of MyPlate, whereas pharmacy students showed the highest rate of use of MyPlate. In a study in Athens showed better dietary habits than what was reported in American medical students, but still with transition from Mediterranean diet (14). In a study among pharmacy students, Egyptian pharmacy students were more likely practice healthy habits (15). According to author knowledge, medical students at Najah University endure more stressful educational experience and in addition to peer competition for funding which may be translated in form of poorer dietary habits.
USDA recommendation of use of MyPlate not be used alone to change consumer dietary behaviors but rather a reminder of healthy eating and to provide supplementary information. It is well known that not all individuals have access to the internet. For any nutrition education tool to achieve its goals, its information should be easily understood by targeted group. Students have answered that using the website was easy, but converting knowledge to practice was challenging for many. One aspect that could interfere utility of the website is the nutrition literacy among studied group and how well they could interpret nutrition data (16)
Students who have higher income were more likely to benefit from MyPlate. Studies that investigated the relationship between income and dietary habits showed that low-income communities are less likely to eat fruits, vegetables and sweetened drinks which may indicate that low income could be related to poorer dietary habits (17). In our study students with low income were less likely to use MyPlate website. In Opt, could have better access to healthy lifestyle and time to care for their own wellbeing. Besides, Many of our students stay away from family for the period of the study which could pressure to find cheap and fulfilling food without having to look for family. In Opt, according to author knowledge household food security depend on cooking locally purchased meat, grains, and vegetables which provide cheap sources of healthy food, whereas buying junk and fast food for all the family members could be expensive. Also, some students work part-time in addition to study which will make them take wrong choices for food intake.
Smokers were less likely to use MyPlate to improve their dietary habits. In a study among university students in Palestine, 30% reported being smokers. Faculty of study and self-reported academic achievement were among the factors that predicted smoking among university students(18). In our study group, only 10% reported smoking which could be related to the fact, most our study group were
medical or pharmacy students, two faculties with reported highest academic achievements. The smokers were less likely to be using MyPlate. In previous work published in the American Journal of Clinical nutrition, smokers were less likely to consume fruits and vegetables, and more likely to consume meat, alcohol and coffee relative to non-smokers indicating less accountable health seeking behavior among smokers similar to our study(19).
An-Najah National University is a Palestinian non-governmental public university located in Nablus in Northern part of Palestine, it serves 17,807 with 1020 professors in 11 faculties in 2017. It was established in 1977(20). An-Najah University host school of medicine, school of pharmacy and nursing department is part of school of medicine. Every year, schools of medicine and pharmacy receive many students from West Bank, diaspora and Palestinian Israeli.
In this study, USDA dietary guidelines and MyPlate application were well received by our medical and health allied students. Most of students reported knowing it, using it and find it easy to use. Although they found that changing their lifestyle accordingly is challenging. Palestinian students in general reported good intake of fruits and vegetables which could be relevant that Palestinian communities are agricultural communities where traditional food intake is very common.