Dietary intake of first- and third-year female dietetics students at a South African university

  • NL Verwey
  • J Jordaan
  • FAM Wenhold


Objective: A survey was undertaken to evaluate and compare dietary intakes of first- and third-year female dietetics students.
Design: This was a cross-sectional survey.
Setting: The University of Pretoria (UP) was the site of the survey.
Population: The study encompassed first- (2012–2015) and third- (2012–2017) year female dietetics students (N = 368).
Outcome: Dietary intake data from multiple-day weighed food records were analysed on nutrient, food group and meal and snacking pattern levels.
Results: Recorded energy intakes of participants (n = 105 first years, n = 166 third years; response rate: 73.6%) were below Estimated Energy Requirements. Across year groups, intakes exceeded and fell below the Acceptable Macronutrient
Distribution Range for fat and carbohydrates respectively; however, third years consumed cereals, grains and starchy vegetables more often. Over 50% of first and third years exceeded Estimated Average Requirements of respectively 3 and 6
of 10 tested micronutrients. Third years recorded higher (all p < 0.001) intakes of protein, magnesium, calcium, zinc and vitamin A than first years. Similarly, their Nutrient Adequacy Ratios were higher (all p < 0.001) for magnesium, calcium and
vitamins A, B6 and B12. Average Mean Adequacy Ratios were 70% (first years) and 77% (third years). The year groups differed in terms of food group intake. The number of daily eating occasions decreased over weekends for first and third
year students, yet intakes of energy (p < 0.05) and fat (p < 0.001) were higher over weekends.
Conclusions: Amidst likely under-recording and/or under-eating, UP female dietetics students’ intakes of some micronutrients may be low. Recorded intakes of third years exceeded those of first years. Recorded nutrient intake improved from the first to the third year of the study in dietetics students.

Keywords: dietary intake, eating occasion, mean adequacy ratio (MAR), nutrient adequacy ratio (NAR), weighed food record (WFR)

How to Cite
Verwey, N., Jordaan, J., & Wenhold, F. (2022). Dietary intake of first- and third-year female dietetics students at a South African university. South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 35(4), 142–148. Retrieved from
Original Research