We asked regular contributor Makenzie Jones (pictured) to discuss Student diets and eating habits, and to get some of her co-students to share when, how, and what they eat.
College is expensive. Public, private, community, big or small, no matter where you are, college takes a chunk out of your wallet. To make the experience worth the price, excelling in the classroom is important, as it will also help land a quality job to earn back some of that cash and prepare for the future. Key to being able to perform in the classroom, sports, and enjoy the college experience is being properly fueled and healthy. Eating healthy may come across as expensive, but following a few simple ideas can make healthy eating in college manageable. Bolstering your brain does not have to wear out your wallet.
Health habits among college students generally set them up for a higher risk of disease later in life. In a study published in FASEB Journal, 84% of college students consumed fast food with 54% doing so at least once a week. Their go-to entrees were burgers and fried chicken. The main reasons for eating fast food were low cost and good taste. Seventy-seven percent of these students said it was likely that healthier meals would cost more.
Northwestern Medicine and Northeastern Illinois University reported from the National College Health Assessment of over 30,000 college students in the U.S. that 95% of them fail to eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. More than 60% reported not getting enough physical activity. While the majority of college students engage in unhealthy behaviors, minorities are at an even greater risk. The most prevalent other unhealthy behaviors reported were binge drinking and tobacco use.
The National Program ChooseMyPlate.gov gives
10 simple tips for healthy eating in the dining hall.
Know what you’re eating. Most dining halls have nutritional information available.
Enjoy your food, but less of it. You can always go back for seconds if you are still hungry.
Make half your grains whole.
Rethink your drink. Many beverages are loaded with calories and sugar that many don’t think about because it’s not food sitting on the plate.
Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
Make it your own. Personalize items such as omelets, salads, and sandwiches.
Slow the sauces. Drowning baked chicken in barbecue sauce can offset the benefit of choosing grilled over fried.
Guard in the garden. Some salad toppings such as nuts or crushed chips, as well as salad dressings, can make a salad more dense than one may realize.
Make desserts special or opt for something “healthier.” Don’t be afraid to get dessert sometimes! Other times, try something like yogurt or a parfait.
Don’t linger. Staying in the cafeteria too long can lead to mindless eating simply because the food is there as an option.
ChooseMyPlate.gov also advises to pay attention to portion sizes, saying that a portion is generally the size of your hand. Being prepared with healthy snacks will help you be less tempted to go for junk when you are really hungry and in a time crunch. Adding in exercise will not only help you move toward or maintain a healthy body weight, but will also reduce stress, increase self-esteem, and improve sleep quality and focus for class and studying.
Other tips for college students include stocking up on convenient items from the grocery store to cooking in the dorm. This way it will be more time efficient, take away the temptation of overdoing it in the cafeteria, and give assurance that you know what you’re eating.
Social eating is also a popular event on campuses, and eating out with friends can drain your wallet. You don’t have to eat out every time or indulge at every party. Relying on caffeine for energy can also do damage to appetite and sleep while real food provides lasting fuel for the body and mind.
Staff on campus is there to answer any questions you may have, and doctors and nutritionists would be glad to help discuss your unique needs. Most importantly, understand what you enjoy, what works for your body, and don’t worry about comparing yourself to others.
It’s not impossible. To prove so, here are some real college students who balance class, work, sports, and socializing.