Hey to all the college newbies out there. As a college senior, I remember so clearly what you are going through right now. You're all done moving in, your parents waved goodbye and now you're on your own. You make your own decisions, set your own bedtime, and choose what you want to eat and when you want to eat it. Exciting!
Unfortunately, it's WAY too easy to make bad choices about food at college. Fast food is prevalent, dining halls encourage overindulging, and it can be challenging to make a healthy meal for yourself when all you have is a microwave and tiny fridge in your dorm room.
As a nutrition major and a Whole Foods Market intern, I've learned a few tricks to share. Imagine telling your parents about all of the smart choices you are making - that's gotta help calm them down!
I know, you want to sleep as late as possible before running off to class. But, it's absolutely vital that you grab something to munch on:
- Eating breakfast provides nutrition and energy for the rest of the day.
- Increasing evidence shows that skipping breakfast or eating an inadequate one contributes to weight gain because it promotes snacking and the consumption of larger meals later in the day.
Here are some simple breakfast ideas:
- instant oatmeal - packets or cups - add a handful of sliced almonds for a protein boost
- granola or cereal with your choice of milk or yogurt. Look for high fiber/low added sugars in your cereals.
- fresh fruit - apples and bananas are perfect
- nut butter spread on whole grain rice crackers or sliced apple
- protein bars - check for fiber and protein with little added sugar
- trail mix
Many parents think that meal plans are the best way to go to ensure their college students are eating well. And it's true that having a meal plan does provide ample food. But sometimes it is simply too much. You have got to make good choices when presented with all of that abundance. Here's why:
- High fat foods are everywhere - think burgers, fries, burritos, pizza, pasta dishes and greasy Chinese food.
- Foods that are high in fat and calories not only affect your physical body but also seem to have negative influences on your mental clarity, sharpness, attitude and memory - not what you want at college.
So, what to choose instead? Here are my tips:
- "Look for simple grilled or baked entrees such as chicken or fish. Seek out whole grain sides and lightly steamed vegetables.
- "Watch portions.
- "Frequent the salad bar, a LOT.
- "Most dining halls offer cereal and fruit at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Another favorite tip of mine is to create some eating guidelines. Everyone needs to set their own, but having some already figured out will help you when faced with overwhelming choices. Here are some to get you thinking:
- Eat a fresh salad at least once a day.
- Stick to one entrée at a meal. For example, don't get pizza and lasagna and ravioli.
- Avoid "seconds.
- Don't skip meals.
- Keep late eating to a minimum.
- Splurge on dessert maybe once a week and choose sweet fresh fruit or low-fat frozen yogurt on other days.
- At restaurants, split your meal into two. Put half of it in a to-go box as soon as it arrives.
And last but not least, remember to keep healthy snacks on hand, like whole grain bread and crackers, unsweetened nut butters, whole grain cereal, fruits, vegetables for snacking (think carrots and celery), hummus, popcorn, pretzels and granola bars.
Are you making an "A" in College Eating 101? What are some of your tips on eating well for dorm life?