You can eat healthy at college
Making healthy eating choices while at college can be tough, especially when students are swamped with tests, papers and extracurricular activities.
The quick and convenience of making grab and go meals like Ramen noodles, microwavable macaroni and cheese and delivery pizza seem easier than attempting to prepare a healthy meal.
But, Jamie Portnoy, a registered dietitian with Advocate Medical Group’s Advocate Weight Management, says with a little forethought, healthy eating is within every college students’ grasp.
“When eating in the cafeteria, make sure to look at your choices,” says Portnoy, who works with patients from Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill. “Most colleges now have the menu posted for the week online. Look prior to going. Plan your meals in advance.”
She also says the cafeteria salad bar can either be good or it could be bad depending on how you choose from it.
“Make sure you look it over before taking a plate,” says Portnoy. “Glance it over, know what you are going to take, then take the food. This will help so you don’t overdo it. Aim to avoid creamy dressings, bacon bits, and mayonnaise-based salads. The calories and fat may be equal or even exceed those of a burger and fries.”
Portnoy suggests using apps and website such as myfitnesspal, Sparkpeople, Loseit and SuperTracker, which can help students plan their meals in advance by providing them with information about calories, fat, salt and sugar content.
The notes section in smart phones also is helpful to log food for accountability, she says.
Similarly, it is crucial to have a plan before going to the grocery store to stock up on items for the dorm room.
“Be prepared with a list and stick with the list,” says Portnoy.
At the grocery store, consider these healthy food swaps:
- Whole grain bread instead of white bread
- Low-fat milk instead of whole milk
- Water instead of juice
- Fruit instead of dessert
- Grilled or baked foods instead of fried foods
- Leaner cuts of protein such as turkey, ham, and chicken
- Healthy fats such as avocado, peanut butter, nuts, and seeds
By planning meals using free resources and by considering food swaps, eating healthy while away at college can be easier than expected.
“What we tend to not understand is that making a turkey sandwich or having some fruits and vegetables is just as convenient as Ramen,” says Portnoy.
Other than meals, students should aim to eat healthy snacks every three to four hours. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fruits and vegetables are a natural source of energy and are the best eat-on-the-go foods. They also warn that beverages often add empty calories during meals and snack times.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.