College students are pretty notorious for their terrible habits. From throwing clothes and books everywhere, forgetting to do laundry, and piling trash, there are several reasons for our less-than-ideal reputation. One of the more well-known stereotypes for college students is our terrible eating habits. Granted, dorm food isn’t necessarily the most delicious (or nutritious) way to fill our stomachs. But there are certainly several different ways to avoid greasy, fattening food and choose healthier choices.
1. Apples, Bananas, Oranges OH MY!
Your dining hall may not have five-star cuisine from top notch restaurants, but ALL dining halls across the country have fruit available. Whether you grab a banana after breakfast or buy a tray of blueberries, eating fruits on a daily basis provides your body with crucial nutrients and vitamins, such as potassium, vitamin C, fiber, and folate (folic acid). In particular, potassium in fruit can reduce risk of heart disease, stroke, and developing kidney stones. Further, only one to 2-1/2 cups of fruit are recommended every day, so snacking on one piece of fruit a day is much easier than, say, eating fruit for all three meals a day.
2. Snack healthier.
I sometimes joke about how college students are similar to kindergarteners: we nap and we snack. The problem with the latter, though, is that our definition of snacks includes high-calorie chips, ice cream, and candy. Not only do these types of snacks have obvious health consequences, they also ruin our appetite for future meals. Snacks are supposed to satisfy us when we’re feeling just a tad bit hungry – the interludes between meals. Instead of reaching for the bag of Doritos, try reaching for higher quality snacks: granola, dried fruit, nuts, sesame rounds, apple sauce, etc. The list goes on, and part of the fun is discovering snacks that are both delicious and healthy!
3. Treat the dining hall like a classroom.
Ugh, another class?! Well, not exactly. Instead of blindly eating whatever is offered to you, take time to get in touch with your dining hall nutrition info, and learn where your food is coming from. Determining your food source, seeing what goes into your food, and making a healthy decision to take control over what you consume are all important practices in mindful eating. Most campuses have nutritionists available to help you set up a diet, discuss calories, or even point out the difference between healthy and unhealthy fats.
4. Experiment with what you're eating.
For most, college is the first time where we are making independent choices about anything and everything. We’re constantly surrounded by late-night dining options, and more often than not, we’re usually in a rush to get to our next class. So, we might view controlling what we eat to be a bit of a challenge. But, if we think about our eating habits as an experiment, with variables we have the power to switch out or change, we can discover a lot more food options. For example, you can ask yourself how your body reacts to eating certain foods, and then decide if it’s a good idea to continue eating that particular meal. Taking control over what you eat, and experimenting with new foods is a great way to find out your diet.
5. Establish a schedule.
We usually think of our eating schedule as a simple combination of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But, like mentioned above, college life is often hectic and unpredictable. Establishing a good routine of what to eat for each meal (and also incorporating healthy snacks in between!) can help gain an understanding of your body. For example, with a scheduled eating plan, you can learn how to eat until you’re just full enough to avoid sudden cravings at random times. Not to mention that keeping track of what you eat, and how you eat can help you visualize the appropriate amount of carbohydrates, fibers, sugars, and protein you are eating.