With the impending semester upon us, it’s never too early to talk about healthy dining on campus. While freshmen are often times required to buy a meal plan with tuition, those living in nearby apartments or are juggling school and home responsibilities, the stress of school can quickly get to students. Unfortunately, the first habit to go is eating healthy. Yet, it doesn’t make sense to opt for cheesy fries that don’t have as much energy producing qualities as a strawberry banana smoothie when the time crunch is really being felt!
I admit, I find myself eating on the go more often than not, but that doesn’t mean I’m going through McDonald’s drive thru or grabbing a Hot Pocket out of the microwave on my way out! With careful planning before the work load gets into the “meat” of things, you can set up your semester with some healthier options.
Planning ahead for upcoming semester, trimester or quarter, use the following suggestions for long term use:
- Have a mini fridge in your dorm and/or access to fridge in apartment or suite for on the go breakfast items, such as a piece of fruit, yogurt,string cheese and/or pb&j to store leftovers and to have produce on hand!
- Opt for “healthier” options at fast food chains. Order salads with dressings on the side, pizza with half the cheese, roast beef sandwich, sweet potato and/or fruit cup. Limit the high fat, greasier options, such as French fries, fish sandwiches and/or fried chicken.
- Monitor your sugar intake, which tend to quickly add up quickly. Often times, coffee creamers, cookies, cocktails, cereals are packed with sugar. Not sure how to check the sugar content? Here’s how to read a nutrition fact label.
- Keep your room or apartment stocked with healthier snacks so you’re not tempted to head for the vending machines or order late night pizza. Next time you’re at the grocery store, grab some pretzels, unbuttered popcorn, rice cakes, whole wheat crackers, hummus and/or granola.
- Keep a reusable water bottle on hand! It’s important to stay hydrated throughout the day. It’s common for people to mistake thirst for hunger, plus drinking regular bouts of water can keep you focused.
- Take advantage of the dining hall’s salad bar! Fill up on fresh fruits and veggies, but go easy on the salad dressing! Vegetables are very filling for few calories!
- Attempt to eat meals on a consistent basis. Yes, college is known to be hectic and one may not always a have a set schedule, but eat when you’re hungry and avoid skipping meals as much as possible.
- Recognize your body’s cues. I understand it’s a lot easier said than done, but listen to your body as it tells you when it’s hungry and when it’s full. No need to overeat, that’s what leftovers are for!
- Recognize portion sizes and stick to them. You often need less food than you think or may like to fill you up! You’ll let meals stretch longer, while sticking to the recommended portion sizes.
- Limit alcohol intake. Alcohol is packed with calories, but provides few nutrients.
- If you’re going grocery shopping. Mix it up! It’s easy to get bored eating the same meals day after day and to opt for late night pizza, but don’t give in!
- Fill up on calcium. Just because you’ve graduated high school, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re done growing. Make sure to eat enough calcium rich foods to continue to prevent osteoporosis. You don’t have to be entirely dependent on milk for your calcium, so keep on hand low fat yogurt, green leafy vegetables and/or low fat cheese
- If you’re out and your stomach’s growling, don’t feel guilty about grabbing fast food. Sometimes you have to eat what’s available, eating fast food once in a while isn’t going to kill you. It’s when such habits become a weekly and then daily habit one should worry.
Yes, this is a lot of information to remember, but you don’t have to add all these suggestions tomorrow. People tend to be more successful long term with small, gradual changes.