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6 Tips To Eating Healthy at College

It’s that time of year. High School seniors are getting or have gotten their college acceptance letters. There are several reasons to be excited, after all, college should be some of the best years of our life. But when you finally get there, but careful not to fall into one of several nutrition traps that lead to college weight gain. The foods you choose affect your energy, concentration and memory. Fortunately, most college dining halls provide plenty of nutritious options, and you can stock your dorm room with good choices too. This guide will help you to incorporate nutritious choices into your busy schedule.

6 Tips To Making Good Food Choices:

1. Don’t skip breakfast. Studies have shown that skipping breakfast can hurt your performance in school. When there isn’t time to sit down to a morning meal, at least make sure you have a bagel or other source of grain, a piece of fruit and some juice.

2. Make time for meals. Eating three meals per day will give you enough energy to last all day and keep your metabolism active. In addition, pack healthy snacks such as fruit or a granola bar.

3. Don’t confuse hunger with thirst. You may think you’re hungry when your body actually needs more liquid. Be sure to stay hydrated throughout the day. Having several cups of coffee or cans of soda doesn’t count, however. The caffeine in coffee and sodas is a diuretic, and sodas, juice drinks and sports drinks are loaded with sugar, which can make you gain weight. Instead, drink plenty of water.

4. Don’t eat the same foods all the time. Make sure you eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, proteins, carbohydrates and fats. A salad of raw vegetables, dark leafy greens, and beans, topped with some nuts and fruit, will give you a variety of important nutrients.

5. Stop eating when you start feeling full. Our bodies don’t always tell us when enough is enough. One study found that people given larger portions tend to eat more food, no matter how hungry they are.

6. If you must eat fast foods, choose wisely. Limit your intake of high-fat foods like French fries. Choose pizza with half the cheese, for example. Or try a green salad with reduced-calorie dressing, or a baked potato.

Slip an apple or orange into your bag. Most dining halls will let you take fruit or other healthy snacks when you leave. Do this to help you resist the lure of the vending machine later on. Keep healthful snacks on hand. Possibilities include fresh or dried fruit, pretzels, unbuttered popcorn, rice cakes and whole-wheat crackers. If you have a refrigerator, consider raw vegetables with low-fat yogurt or cottage cheese dip.

As you educate yourself about nutrition, making smart choices in the dining hall will become second nature. Here’s advice on 4 situations you might encounter:

1. I can’t find any food I like. Be creative. If you don’t like the entree offered, try combining foods from different areas of the dining hall. For example, add a grilled chicken breast to a salad or vegetables from the salad bar to make a sandwich or a wrap.

2. I’m a vegetarian. Most colleges offer vegetarian entrees at all meals, such as veggie burgers, stir fries and pasta dishes. Or you can create your own meal at the salad or sandwich bar by adding protein-rich ingredients like cheese, eggs, hummus, beans or peanut butter.

3. I have special dietary needs. Students with food allergies, medical conditions like diabetes or special religious requirements may find it harder to get by in a dining hall, but most schools make an effort to meet their needs. The vegetarian meals offered by dining halls often help meet the needs of students with religious requirements. If you have special dietary needs — especially medical ones — you may need to talk to the dining hall manager or to someone in student services.

4. I have class during mealtime. You need food to think properly, so make time to eat. If you skip a meal, you may have trouble concentrating or get a headache. If you can’t sit down for a full meal, pack a healthy snack.

When you’ve been up for hours studying, you might look to sugar, fried food or caffeine to provide a boost. But healthier alternatives can give you more energy with fewer negative consequences. Keep your room stocked with healthy snacks like the following:

  • Animal crackers
  • Canned fruit
  • Crackers
  • Energy bars
  • Fresh fruit
  • Granola bars
  • High-fiber cereal
  • Nuts
  • Pita bread
  • Popcorn
  • Pudding
  • Soup
  • Trail mix
  • Tuna fish
  • Baby carrots
  • Celery
  • Low-fat yogurt or smoothies
  • Low-fat milk

In the end, it’s not hard to eat healthfully at college. Just keep these tips in mind, and use common sense, and you’ll take excellent care of both your body and your mind.

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