Purpose: This study aimed to investigate changes in food consumption during the COVID-19 lockdown period in a sample of female college students in China. The study employed a dual processing approach that simultaneously investigates the effects of students' beliefs about the importance of healthy eating and the effect of emotional eating due to anxiety induced by the pandemic. Design/methodology/approach: Data were collected from 645 female college students in China using a self-administered questionnaire. Structural equation modeling was used for the data analysis. Findings: Beliefs about the importance of healthy eating have a greater impact on changes in food consumption than anxiety. Emotional eating was positively associated with changes in vegetable consumption. The findings reveal that a shift from “food as health” to “food as well-being” in the role of food in the food-related life of Chinese consumers is underway. “Food as health” remains important in food-related decision-making in China during the pandemic. Concurrently, a well-being centered or a more holistic perspective, including the psychological and emotional aspects of food, should be included in food-related research and health promotion in China. Originality/value: This study contributes to the literature on reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic by simultaneously investigating both the cognitive impact of beliefs regarding the importance of healthy eating and the affective impact of anxiety on changes in food consumption due to COVID-19.