Chow Time! Tips For Eating Healthy On Campus
EATING HEALTHY IS ABOUT MORE than looking good and avoiding the “Freshman 15.” It’s also about keeping your immune system strong, your energy up and your brain in peak performance mode. Granted, it’s not easy on a fixed income that’s better suited for Ramen Noodles and tap water, but there is hope. Consider these ideas to keep your carb cravings, sweet tooth and budget in check.
ALWAYS KEEP HEALTHY SNACKS IN YOUR BACKPACK.
Things that don’t need to be refrigerated or that won’t melt are your best bets because they don’t have to be eaten immediately and can last several days. Protein bars (not covered in chocolate) are often good because they’ll provide a balanced mix of protein and carbohydrates.
DRINK NATURAL LIQUIDS.
Water (free!), skim milk and anything that’s 100 percent juice are good, as is one or two cups of coffee per day. Avoid soda and beverages with the word “drink” or “cocktail” in the name as they tend to have more sugar, high fructose corn syrup and food dye. Give up energy drinks altogether as they only provide short-term energy boosts and can cause insomnia, rapid heartbeat, irritability and increased blood pressure. We’ll skip the lecture on alcohol since you’re too young anyway, right?
WATCH YOUR PORTION SIZE.
Several companies are now making pre-measured packs (e.g., 100 calories each) of crackers, cookies, chips and pretzels. The idea is great—it’ll help you avoid eating an entire bag of potato chips in one sitting—but they can get a bit pricey as you’re essentially paying for packaging. Instead, buy a box of sandwich bags and make a mix of raisins, sunflower seeds, cereal or low-fat croutons, or pack some carrots, cucumber slices and a handful of almonds.
AVOID SKIPPING MEALS.
Whenever possible, eat three meals a day—including breakfast—to avoid temptation or binging later in the day. Starving yourself in an attempt to lose weight can actually backfire, not to mention harm your body and affect your energy and concentration. The safest and most permanent way to lose weight is by eating sensibly and exercising regularly.
EAT FOR YOUR SIZE.
Do some research online to find out how many calories a day you should be consuming. Food diaries or smartphone apps are great ways to keep track of what you eat, how much you eat and how many calories you’ve burned with exercise.
STOCK UP TO AVOID TRIPS TO THE VENDING MACHINE.
Fill your mini-fridge with healthy food that requires little or no preparation. There are plenty of inexpensive and healthy foods you can cook to last you most of the week. Hard-boiled eggs, grilled chicken, soups, cold pasta salads and turkey meatballs can all provide great sources of protein.
LEARN TO READ LABELS.
When in doubt, opt for whole foods—things that haven’t been overly processed and don’t contain a bunch of added fat, carbs, salt or sugar. The fewer ingredients the better. Fruits, veggies, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains top almost all lists of healthy foods, as do sardines, tuna and eggs. A quick tip: look at the ingredients and make sure the word “whole” appears as one of the first items.
Eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring or expensive. If you can pass AP calculus, you’re smart enough to know that ordering pizza four nights a week is going to ruin your waistline—and your budget!