Ditch the Ramen! Here Comes Health for Students!

Contributors: Annie Li (Project Lead), Joanna Wang, Joyce Jeon (Team Jaja)

Introduction (Here we present…)

However, while you might be enjoying the chicken soup you just made, are you aware that your cooking choices might have some trends with some other factors as well? According to An Exploration of College Students’ Cooking Behavior and Factors That Influence That Behavior Using Social Cognitive Theory, researchers have found that many factors affect students’ cooking behaviors and obesity rate, such as attitudes and cooking knowledge. Moreover, your cooking behaviors might be a predictor of even more factors, such as GPA and profession.

In this article, our team examines the possible trends and relationships between college students’ cooking behaviors and income & profession, academic performance, cultural background, and exercising habits using Kaggle datasets of college students’ cooking choices. This dataset consists of 126 raw responses from students regarding their food choices, nutrition, preferences, childhood favorites, and other information. In this article, you will read about the potential hidden relationships between your frequency of cooking, your breakfast choices, to your GPAs and income.

We hope this data will be useful to you when thinking about your cooking choices in the future. My chicken soup smells great, and what about yours?:)

Income & Profession (How do student millionaires usually cook?)

Based on the data, students are grouped according to their cooking frequency, which we described as 5 categories: every day, often, sometimes, seldom, and never. These 5 categories each correspond to the following 5 responses in the original survey:

Every day — Every day

Often — A couple of times a week

Sometimes — Whenever I can, but that is not very often

Seldom — I only help a little during holidays

Never — Never, I really do not know my way around a kitchen

Then, within their own group of cooking frequency, we analyzed their income ranges using a boxplot. From the graph above, we can see that college students that never cook have the highest income median, followed by college students who seldom cook. There might be due to the fact that some students with high income might be too busy to cook because of their work, other rich students might simply take the option of eating out or ordering take-out. Following the two groups with the highest income, we get that students who cook every day have the median income in the 3rd place and students who cook often and sometimes have the lowest income of all. When considering students who cook often, there might be two major reasons behind that. For one, cooking themselves might be a more affordable option for some students because the ingredients tend to be cheaper. For another, some students might choose to cook on their own because homemade food might be a healthier and more customizable option. Thus, different reasons for cooking may result in a high variation of money spent on cooking, reflecting the variety of students’ income levels. This might be a reason why we see the ranges of income from students who cook every day, often, and sometimes are higher than those from students who seldom and never cook.

Parents’ profession VS cooking frequency:

Based on the data, we also visualize parents’ professions according to students’ cooking frequency using word clouds. From the graphs above, there is not an obvious difference among students with different cooking frequencies. The most common profession of parents within all groups are teachers, followed by business owner, dentist, and lawyer.

Academic Performance (…)

Diet Type vs. GPA:

From this dataset, participants were asked to label their own diet types: a healthy/balanced/moderate diet, an unhealthy/cheap/too much/random diet, a repetitive diet, or an unclear diet. Using a heat map, it was possible to analyze the correlation between the different diet types and GPA. The only diet type that yielded a positive correlation with GPA was a healthy and balanced diet, with a correlation of 0.12. Although, this is not a significantly high GPA, it was the only diet type out of the 4 choices that had any sort of positive correlation.

Eating Changes vs. GPA

Coming to college, one of the most noticeable changes to a student’s lifestyle is their eating changes. Going from having their parents cook meals for them and having access to a plethora of nutritious ingredients, students rely on dining hall food and snacks such as ramen and other easy and convenient foods. Naturally, it became curious to analyze the relationship between eating changes and the GPA of college students. Eating changes were grouped from a scale of 1 through 13:

  1. Eat Faster
  2. Bigger Quantity (of food)
  3. Worse Quality
  4. Same Food
  5. Healthier
  6. Unclear
  7. Drink Coffee
  8. Less Food
  9. More Sweets
  10. Timing
  11. More Carbs/Snacking
  12. Drink More Water
  13. More Variety

Surprisingly, rather than a healthier eating change having the largest effect on students’ GPA, the increase in coffee consumption was correlated with a higher GPA. This may be because of a multitude of reasons, such as college students having to stay up late at night to finish assignments and study for multiple courses. Students who ate faster were correlated with having a lower GPA, relative to the other 12 eating changes in the data set. Eating fast is linked to health problems and overall a less nutritious lifestyle, which may be a reason as to why this specific factor is correlated with the lowest mean GPA in the dataset.

Exercise vs GPA

A healthy lifestyle does not consist of only food and diet; exercise is just as important an element to lead a healthy lifestyle. Oftentimes, students find it difficult or inconvenient to find time to incorporate exercise into their daily schedule, often prioritizing academics or social activities. Hopefully, findings from this swarm plot will encourage students to exercise more, as there is a positive relationship between exercise and a higher GPA. The number of times each student exercised per week were labeled from a 1 to 3 scale where:

  1. Exercise Everyday
  2. Twice or Three times a week
  3. Once a Week

Looking at the swarm plot, the highest GPAs from students in the dataset were from those who exercised at least twice a week. Those who exercised every day versus those who exercised twice/three times a week barely saw any difference in GPA; however, those who only exercised once a week had a noticeably lower GPA compared to those who exercised more often.

Cultural Backgrounds (How do backgrounds influence students’ diets?)

This visualization displays the correlation between students’ favorite cuisine and their current diet, with red meaning healthy, orange meaning unhealthy, yellow meaning balanced three meals throughout the day, and green meaning no comment. The favorite cuisines are coded in the following manner:

0 — none

1 — Italian

2 — Mexican

3 — Turkish

4 — Asian

5 — American

6 — African

7 — Jamaican

8 — Indian

From the visualization, we can tell that overall, unhealthy meals take up a large percentage in each of the favorite cuisines, meaning that reasonably, college students are consuming less healthy food currently versus when they were at home. Looking at the breakdown more specifically, Italian food wins the most popular favorite cuisine among its choices, and students who enjoy it report they are eating rather unhealthy at the moment. Asian is another popular cuisine, and it seems like more of the sample are eating healthy rather than unhealthy. Therefore, while college students in general are not eating as healthy as they would wish, different favorite cuisines correlate with the students’ food choices currently.

This visualization illustrates the students’ ideal diet versus how their eating habits change. The ideal diet is coded in the following way:

1 — small portioned meal

2 — healthy with fruit and vegetable

3 — healthy and balanced meal

4 — less sweet

5 — organic and home cooked food

6 — similar to what I eat now

7 — high protein

8 — no comment

And the eating changes are coded as:

1 — eating more unhealthy food and snacks

2 — eating more healthy food

3 — no change

4 — no comment

From the graph above, we can notice that all the categories experienced some sort of diet changes upon coming into college, but their ideal diet differentiates their eating changes. Students who eat fruit and vegetable experienced all eating changes — from eating more healthy to more unhealthy or no change. Therefore, it seems like while maintaining a healthy college diet is difficult, it is still obtainable. However, it is also easy to shift into either a more healthy or unhealthy diet, so personal control and beliefs may play a role in this. It is also interesting to note that students who eat less sweet either ate more unhealthy or more healthy, no there was no “no change”, so it looks like maintaining a less sweet diet is rather difficult.

This visualization showcases the students’ ethnic food correlated to their comfort food reasons, with the reasons coded in the following way:

1 — stress

2 — boredom

3 — sadness

4 — hunger

5 — lazy

6 — sich

7 — happiness

8 — anxious

9 — no comment

Looking at the boxplot, students with “1” as their ethnic food have a common comfort food reason as boredom, while students with “2” as their ethnic food have a common comfort food reason as hunger. Therefore, it seems like no matter what ethnic food students consumed when growing up, their primary current reason for seeking comfort food is their current physical and mental condition.

Exercising Habits (I saw him in the gym all day…Does he likely cook often?)

Similarly, students are grouped according to their cooking frequency: every day, often, sometimes, seldom, and never, which correspond to each of the following 5 responses respectively:

Every day — Every day

Often — A couple of times a week

Sometimes — Whenever I can, but that is not very often

Seldom — I only help a little during holidays

Never — Never, I really do not know my way around a kitchen

Based on the visualization above, we can see that students who cook every day have the highest exercise time per week of all. The reason behind this might be that for students who exercise on a daily basis, they might be really aware of their eating habits and thus cook themselves to ensure a healthy diet. They can go to the groceries only for healthy food and don’t need to worry about the extra salad dressing from restaurants or take-outs. The groups of students who exercise 2nd most regularly are, students who never cook. While this may seem a bit surprising, it might simply be the case that this group of students might overlap with the students with high income. They can afford healthier, luxury places to maintain calorie control as well.

Conclusion (roll the credits!):

If you’re curious about how we created our visualizations, here is our GitHub repository!



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