There is worldwide concern that higher education students are increasingly engaging in unhealthy eating and lifestyle practices. A total of 488 white students participated in a study aimed at investigating the current food consumption and related lifestyle patterns of students at a South African residential university. The respondents’ self‐reported weight and height was used to calculate their body mass index (BMI). Closed and open‐ended questions measured aspects of the respondents’ usual eating patterns and lifestyles. The meal patterns and composition confirmed Western‐orientated food practices, as the majority consumed three meals a day, with in‐between meal snacking, and a different meal pattern over weekends. Respondents’ food intake was further characterized by a low intake of fruit, vegetables, and dairy products and frequent consumption of foods high in fat, sugar, and sodium. Although the majority (66.8%) of the study group were classified as normal weight according to their BMI, when comparing males and females, more males than females were overweight and obese. Only 54% of the males had a normal weight compared to 82% of the females. There was, however, no statistically significant difference (p = 0.149) between how males and females in the different BMI groups felt about their weight. The study also explored the relationships between the respondents’ BMI, gender, food consumption patterns, and type of residence. The features of the food consumption patterns were depicted according to whether breakfast was eaten or not; snacking activity between meals; the consumption of ready‐prepared convenience meals, fast foods; home‐cooked meals; and eating out. There were no statistical significant differences between the BMI categories of males and females regarding their habit to eat breakfast or not; and to snack between meals either during the morning, in the afternoon or after supper. Similarly, no statistical significant differences were noted when relating the BMI categories of the gender groups to the frequency of consumption of ready‐prepared, convenience type meals, fast foods, and home‐cooked meals. However, a statistical significant difference (p‐value 0.006) was found between BMI categories per gender and general frequency of eating out. No statistical differences was noted between BMI categories, gender and place of residence irrespective of the type, whether the student lived with parents, independently in a flat or apartment, or a house with friends or a room, or in a university residence.