Pop Quiz: Do your meal options rotate between fast food, ramen noodles or dining hall pizza?
If you're a college student and this sounds all too familiar to you it's because most college students are pressed for time, under a lot of stress and find themselves eating on the go. Sometimes it's difficult to avoid fast food restaurants, all-you-can-eat dining hall junk food or even skipping meals. Without direction or nutritional discipline, students often fall victim to these situations -- which are sure to pack on the pounds.
Therefore, it's important -- especially with so much to do -- to be aware of the proper nutrition your body needs to help you perform at your peak, both in the classroom and in the rest of your daily life. A healthy diet can help you feel better and cope well with stress, putting you on the right track for a successful semester! You don't need a nutrition degree to eat healthy; just follow some of these fitness and nutrition tips to navigate your way through a healthy college career.
Solutions to Your Dining Hall Dilemma
You have class during meals: Food is the fuel your brain needs to help you think, so make time to eat. If you skip a meal, you may have trouble concentrating, get a headache or feel like you didn't get very much out of your class. Even if you can't sit down for a full meal, pack a healthy portable snack such as fruit, trail mix or a sandwich.
You're unsure of healthy choices in the dining hall: Living on campus usually means that the dining hall provides most of your meals. Sometimes choosing good nutrition can be difficult and a little overwhelming when faced with the amount of food and variety in a typical dining hall. Don't worry, it is possible! Here are some dining hall "green light bites" to keep mind when heading in for a meal:
• Breakfast: Start your day off right with a balanced meal incorporating lean protein, whole grains, fruits and/or veggies. Cooked-to-order egg-white omelets and scrambles with a side of whole wheat toast are a great way to get your lean protein, veggies and whole grains. Be sure to ask the chef to prepare them with very little oil or butter. Other great breakfast choices include fresh fruit, oatmeal (find out how it's prepared), high-fiber cereal and low-fat or non-fat yogurt.
• Lunch: Head over to the sandwich line and salad bar and get creative. Try shredded lettuce, tomatoes, pickles or any other veggies that you like, pile them high on a plate and top it all off with lean turkey breast slices, ham and/or roast beef. If large lettuce leaves are available, you can turn your lunch into a protein-style feast by wrapping your meat and pickles in them. Yum!
• Dining Hall Green Light Dinner Bites - Dinner is usually when there are the most options available. Be choosy! You don't have to try a little bit of everything and chances are you will see the item on the menu again. Walk around and look at all of the options available that day before deciding on your meal. Grilled or baked lean protein, like chicken or fish, is always a great option. Just make sure it's not swimming in oil and/or lots of sauce. If possible, order your sauce on the side and use it sparingly-dip, don't pour. Then load up the rest of your plate with lots of steamed veggies. If they're too boring, add spices, hot sauce, mustard, etc.
Dorm Room Food Remedies
Dormitory living can be a challenge when you are making nutritious choices for yourself. With late night study sessions, movies and going out, snacking can be difficult to avoid. Snacking itself isn't bad, but having healthful snack options on hand can help prevent trips to the vending machines and late night eateries.
Your friends order late night pizza, calzones, and wings: Don't deny yourself food if you are truly hungry, but don't over indulge either. Healthy eating is about moderation! If you eat regular meals and free fuel (fresh fruits and veggies) throughout the day, you should feel satisfied. But, remember, it is okay to eat a regular portion of these foods, such 1 slice of pizza, every once in a while.
You have a meal plan, but always get hungry between meals and at night when studying: Keep your room stocked with healthy snacks you can grab when you're hungry, such as these dorm green light bites:
• Shelf stable items - Whole grain crackers, trail mix, dried fruit, nuts, rice cakes, high fiber cereals, apples, oranges, no sugar added applesauce, reduced fat peanut butter, tuna packets
• Microwaveable items - snack-sized 94% fat-free popcorn, potatoes, oatmeal packets, broth or vegetable based soups, reduced sugar hot cocoa, quick cooking brown rice
• Refrigerator items - skim milk, non-fat yogurt, low-fat cottage cheese, low-fat cheese, salsa, hummus, pre-cut vegetables, fresh fruit
Solutions to Your Fitness Dilemmas
An article about eating healthy wouldn't be complete without nutrition's partner-in-crime: exercise. Follow these tips and get an "A" in fitness:
• Walk or Bike to Class
: Be active on the way to class instead of taking the bus or car.
• Join an Intramural Sport This is a fun way to meet new people and fit in exercise, too.
• Go for a Walk with Friends: Stay fit and catch up with friends at the same time. Instead of taking a shortcut back to your dorm, take the scenic route and get in a little extra exercise.
• Take a Fitness Class as a Course: This is a good way to include fitness into your routine and earn credit. Consider weight lifting or dancing.
• Check out your College Gym: Most colleges have gyms or fitness centers that offer free or reduced price memberships. They may also offer classes such as yoga, cardio, kickboxing, and dancing.
There's something for everyone!
Follow Joanna Dolgoff, M.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/joannadolgoffmd