College Nutrition Guide

 

 

As you prepare to leave the familiarity of high school and home, there is an endless list of considerations and choices that need to be made or will need to be made in the near future.

From choosing the right school and the right major, to books and financial aid, to the actual process of moving out on your own; it can seem almost impossible to learn how to juggle all these new responsibilities. Not to mention once you actually get there, you have to put all those plans into action and maintain your living space, attend your own classes, make time for your own activities, and the list goes on and on.

How can you keep up?

The short and honest answer is: YOU WILL!

However, among all the things there are to consider, there is one seemingly obvious matter that oftentimes gets overlooked:

How will you eat in college?

Until now, most of your meals have probably been thought out by someone else, and I am willing to bet not a whole lot of thought has gone into what’s going into your body. The most obvious choice in staying fed in college is the cafeteria. It is usually open early in the morning and late at night – and usually included in your student meal plan. It seems like a great way to stay fed with little hassle.

Inbetween meals there are vending machines and snack bars and depending where you go to school – a chain cafe or restaurant too. But all these convenient choices begin to impact your health as soon as you take that first bite. In fact, there is a multitude of research that has gone into finding out just how much students are affected by the notoriously named “freshman 15”.

Study after study conducted in laboratories and universities all over the world have concluded the same. One study at Auburn University followed 131 students through their four year journey in college and found that an incredible 70% gained an average of 12 pounds (some as much as 37 pounds)! You may be asking, why?

Well, if you add the newfound responsibility of feeding yourself breakfast, lunch, and dinner, compound that with lots of stress, lack of sleep, probably less physical activity than before unless you are an athlete, and the high fat, high carb, low nutrition diet from the school cafeteria, you may be beginning to see the picture for what it is.

So, what is a busy freshman to do? You have to eat – and during those busy college years, you don’t have time or money to worry endlessly about how to eat. Well rest easy! Continue reading below for a crash course in college nutrition. This is your guide on how to stay above the pack without sacrificing precious study time.

Learn to become an expert in stretching one food out into multiple meals. Make it easy on yourself! Making hard boiled eggs for breakfast, make more than 2 or 3! Boil 6 or more. Eat some for breakfast, then use some to make a quick and easy deviled egg or egg salad. That’s about 3 meals right there.

Snacking is one of the toughest parts of eating well. Chips, soda and candy are the usual grab-and-go suspects. But they only slow your body down as it fights to process all the sugars and fats that you’ve consumed. Instead buy fruits, vegetables, pretzels, nuts, unbuttered popcorn – and preportion them into little sandwich bags so you can grab a snack on the run. It will be like having your own little market right in your pantry and fridge.

How indepth you want to go is entirely up to you. You can achieve your goals with just a mini fridge and a microwave. Access to a stove is also helpfull, and most dorms have a small kitchen you can utilize.

When eating out, look for foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. Grilled chicken is a much better option than chicken that has been breaded and fried. Steamed vegetables are a much better choice than the vegetable sautee that has been doused with butter and salt. A baked potato is the right kind of starch for your body as opposed to a potato that has been soaked in salt water and fried to make a french fry. As you take stock of what is offered at your school cafeteria and

In a nutshell, proteins build your body, carbohydrates fuel it, and fruits and vegetables provide vital nutrients (and some carbs too!). But that’s not all you need to know.

Envision an empty plate. Now divide it in half vertically. Fruits and vegetables should make up half of what you eat on a daily basis. It’s a good idea to consume a piece of fruit at every opportunity, and pile on the fresh veggies with every meal. Not only will you be fuller, your body relishes in the nutrients it gets, and fruits and vegetables are the star of healthy carbs.

Now take the other half of your “plate” and divide it into approximately 30% protein, 20% carbohydrates, and 10% dairy. (Image included of MyPlate) Fats and oils will already occur naturally in what you eat so there is no need to add fats to an average college diet. However, focus on cutting out “bad” fats like those found in butter, animal fats (except seafood), and oils. Try these tips to meet your daily goals:

 

FRUITS AND VEGGIES

  • Keep plenty of fresh fruit on hand. Most don’t need to be refrigerated so they won’t take up precious room in your fridge. Consider a hanging basket for ultimate space saving. If you don’t have one, a regular basket will work too.
  • Buy what’s in season for optimum flavor and lowest cost.
  • Prewash fruits like grapes, berries, apples, and pears so they’re ready when you are.
  • Wash and portion veggie snacks in sandwich bags so you can grab-and-go or, purchase pre-cut veggies that take care of the work for you.
  • When eating out, choose vegetables that are as close to their natural state as possible. Steamed veggies are great. Ones that have been sauteed in butter and salt or even worse, battered and fried, are not what you want to feast on. It’s better to get your veggies plain and season them up yourself so you know exactly what’s going on your food.

 

PROTEIN

  • Keep natural peanut butter, greek yogurt, nuts, and fat-free dairy products on hand.
  • If you like protein shakes, invest in a good protein powder and mix up a shake for breakfast or any time. No, you certainly won’t turn into a bodybuilder. In fact, a true protein powder shake has about 120 calories and less than 2 grams of fat and little to no carbs. It’s a true win for your body and most taste surprisingly good.
  • Hardboil eggs and keep them handy for an easy breakfast or snack. They will last in your fridge for several days so make enough to last! Then turn any leftovers into a quick delicious deviled egg (recipe in sidebar).
  • When choosing your meat, always think basics. The more cooking and processing your meat goes throgh, the less nutritious it usually is. A grilled chicken breast is a much better choice than one that has been battered and fried. Look for lean grilled meats like chicken, turkey, and lean cuts of beef and pork.
  • Seafood is a great option for protein and the health benefits are numerous. Tuna, salmon, cod, crab, you name it and it’s a good choice for protein in your diet.
  • If you have access to a stove, you can cook a pound or two of meat and keep it in your fridge for a quick meal later on. You can re-heat in the microwave or use “leftover” chicken to make a sandwich, grab a few turkey meatballs to snack on while you study, or toss some protein on a salad.

 

CARBOHYDRATES

  • It’s important to know the difference in good carbs and bad carbs. Sugar is the #1 no-no, bad for you, mess with your body, spike you up then bring you down carb. While treats are ok, they should remain as just that – a treat. Keep sugar to a minnimum. This includes sugary sodas and juices.
  • White breads, pastries, bagels, anything made of white flour should also be kept to a minimum. This wreaks havoc on your body almost as bad as sugar does, and your body treats it as such.
  • Stick to whole grains like oatmeal, whole grain breads, fruits and vegetables, brown rice, quinoa, and beans.

 

FATS AND OIL

  • Good sources of fat include fats found in seafood, olive oil, nuts, avacado, dark chocolate, and whole eggs.

 

DAIRY

  • Greek yogurt, fat-free cottage cheese, fat-free milk, and fat-free cheeses are all good sources of dairy.