College life is very full and busy with exams, papers, projects, new social experiences, etc. Grabbing something to eat quickly between classes is sometimes all we can do. However, unless we get the nutrition we need, we could suffer from fatigue, weight gain, weight loss, loss of energy, constipation, anemia, or other health issues. The FDA’s current recommendation for food choices is the simplest it has ever been. It’s called “My Plate” and has very basic suggestions for food choices and portion size.
Essentially, My Plate encourages you to:
- Focus on a variety of foods, the amount chosen, and the nutritional value
- Food choices with less saturated fat, less added sugar, and less sodium are preferable
- Start slow with diet changes. A drastic change is less likely to become habitual.
- Share your wisdom! Encourage those around you to eat healthier as well.
Following is a short list of tips college students can follow to optimize their nutrition
- Control your portion size: meat servings should be the size of a deck of cards. Try not to opt for seconds.
- Choose a variety in your meal choices. Cafeteria style eating allows one to choose the same thing on a daily basis, but it’s advantageous to make different choices and thus your body gets a variety of nutrients.
- Don’t skip breakfast. You’re feeding your brain and your body. Both will function better!
- Snacks are OK! But the healthy choice (fruit, dried fruit, granola bars, etc.) will give your body nutrition where chip-like snacks will not. Make healthy choices with snacks.
- Moderate your drinking If you choose to drink alcoholic beverages, realize that you not only lower your inhibitions and cloud your judgment, but you also consume many calories with no nutritional value.
- Eating is not a healthy cure for stress! Stress is inherent in college life, but eating to comfort yourself is not always the best way to deal with it. Try exercise or even taking a short break to get over stressful times.
- Drink water! It will boost hydration and the full feeling will help curb the urge to eat when you’re not really hungry. Plus, water has zero calories!
- Limit sugary and caffeinated drinks. They have many calories as well as caffeine which can have detrimental health effects.
- Eat fruits and vegetables every day! They are full of vitamins and minerals.
- Limit junk food. Sometimes fast and easy, but habitually it can lead to weight gain and loss of nutrition.
- Make it a point to NOT skip meals. Shop so that it’s easy to grab something on the go.
- Cheat! It’s OK to indulge yourself once in a while. A small portion of something you love once in a while to reward yourself for finishing a project or making it through a semester is sometimes just the thing to boost your spirits.
- If you feel your diet is lacking, consider taking a multivitamin
If you feel you are struggling with weight loss, weight gain, or eating disorders, be sure to reach out and get some help from a health care provider.