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Healthy tips for students heading off to college

College is a time for students to learn to be responsible for themselves, whether it’s waking up on time, studying or even deciding what to eat.

According to a registered dietitian at Baylor College of Medicine, there are several things college students can do to ensure that they’re consuming nutritious foods and living healthy.

“One important thing to do is to establish a schedule to go to the campus recreation center,” said Roberta Anding, registered dietitian with Baylor and Texas Children’s Hospital.

“It might be a good idea to get an activity tracker to help ensure that you are getting at least 10,000 steps per day.”

Anding also suggests that when college students are facing choices at the dining hall, consider filling half of the plate with fruits and vegetables.  

“If your favorite thing on the line that day is fettuccini Alfredo, consider having half a plate of fettuccini Alfredo and the other half of the plate have fruits and vegetables,” Anding said.

“That imaginary line down the middle of the plate can help in the dining hall.”

The key thing when it comes to snacking is to purchase pre-portioned snacks, she said.

“If you’re going to get almonds, for example, which are a great food but high in calories, you should get the individual portions of almonds rather than a can of almonds.

“Forcing portion control can help higher calorie snacks such as nuts and trail mix become moderate calorie snacks,” she said.

Anding suggests eating a microwaveable, low-fat bag of popcorn, which is a whole grain. Consider dressing up the popcorn once it comes out of the microwave. Spray with a non-stick cooking spray and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Cajun spice is another great way to flavor popcorn for those who enjoy a kick.

“You can change the flavor profile and end up with something that’s a little different,” said Anding.

Other snacks Anding suggests keeping in the dorm room include hummus with vegetables and Greek yogurt with fruit and quarter teaspoon of dark chocolate syrup.

Anding says to go easy on moderate foods that have added fat, such as olive oil or nuts, because they have added calories.

“Don’t assume you can eat an unlimited amount of something because it is good for you,” she said.

Because many clubs and organizations have free food at events at the beginning of the school year, Anding said to skip the free food if you already have eaten dinner. If you know they are offering food and want to eat it, then skip dinner.

Another cautionary suggestion from Anding is to be aware of liquid calories, whether they are from sodas, sports drinks, alcohol or other caffeinated drinks such as lattes. Try diet sodas and consider skipping whole milk and whipped cream in lattes and drink water whenever possible.

Finally, Anding makes some suggestions for foods that will help academic performance.

“Your brain needs high-quality food,” she said.

Breakfasts should include a quality carbohydrate such as oatmeal or shredded wheat, combined with a protein such as eggs, yogurt or Canadian bacon. Proteins help the timely release of carbohydrates in the body.

“Don’t forget that you need carbohydrates to fuel your brain, so don’t skip breakfast,” she said.

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