Healthy tips from a Registered Dietitian
1. Eat breakfast! Put your alarm clock across the room so you have to get out of bed to turn it off…this will help you get out of bed on time. Next, be sure you have something yummy in your room/apartment to meet your energy needs. Otherwise, stop at the Union or Commons for a well-balanced breakfast. Great ideas include: (1) oatmeal with nuts and dried fruit, along with a glass of milk; (2) A bowl of yogurt with granola or whole grain cereal, fresh fruit and hot tea; (3) a hard boiled egg, fruit, toast with a smear of peanut butter and a skim latte.
2. Stay hydrated. Limit intake of caffeine and alcohol. 6-12 ounces of caffeinated coffee or tea can fit into a healthy diet for most people and may even be helpful for athletes and those with certain conditions like diabetes. However, it can be an irritant to those with GI problems (such as with irritable bowel syndrome) and those on certain medications. It also can leave you dragging after a couple hours post-cappuccino! Focus on drinking plenty of water, about 2-3 cups of dairy or dairy alternative (i.e. soymilk), juice (most students can healthfully drink 6-8oz juice daily…some may need more, some less) and occasional sports drinks (especially if you are an athlete).
3. Be mindful of carbs. You need carbs to fuel yourself. Just aim for the best options such as whole grains, fruits, veggies (a good mix of starchy like sweet potatoes and beans to non-starchy like spinach and broccoli) and milk/yogurt (2-3 servings daily from these two dairy sources). Athletes in particular need to be certain to get a good ratio of carbs to proteins to fats in order to ensure optimal performance. Never go low-carb…you need at least 130 grams of carbs daily for brain function. Most people need 200-300 grams daily. Athletes may need more.
4. Grab more fruits and veggies. Most college students need 3-5 servings of fruits and 4-7 servings of veggies daily. Each serving is usually a medium fruit, 1/2 cup of fruit, 2tbsp dried fruit, 1/2 cup cooked veggies or 1 cup of raw veggies. Great ways to balance snack include having fruit with nuts or veggies with hummus.
5. Get enough protein. If you are vegetarian be sure you are getting enough (See my blog posting on vegetarian proteins for more ideas.) If you are an athlete, your protein needs will likely be higher. Aim for whole grains (they have more protein than refined grains), dairy products (cottage cheese, greek yogurt, regular yogurt and cheese…be mindful of cheese – some is good, but not for all your protein needs!), beans/legumes, tofu/tempeh, lean poultry/beef and fish (canned chunk light tuna and canned wild salmon are shelf stable and nutrient powerhouses! Go for anchovies and sardines if you really want to up your game…nutritionally, that is…your roommates might think you are kind of fishy, though!)
6. Don’t go longer than 3-4 hours without eating. It will backfire on you later if you skip meals. If you have to stay up late studying, give yourself some good fuel with a nutritious snack. For example, try carrots, whole grain crackers & hummus. Or, have a glass of milk with a whole grain or natural granola bar (i.e. Kashi, LaraBar, Cascadian Farm Organic Fiber Right, Clif Bar or Luna Bar).
7. Choose the right types of fats. You need fat in your diet…if you are trying to maintain, lose or gain weight. Aim to select unsaturated fats such as those in most plants and fish. Nuts, nut butters, seeds, canned wild salmon, vinaigrettes (rather than blue cheese type dressings) and grilled items rather than fried ones are the best choices. Dark chocolate (in sensible portions…such as one to two small squares daily) is actually heart healthy even though it has a high content of saturated fat…the serving size is key. Don’t neglect fat in order to lose weight. It can lead to disordered eating and discouragement in not meeting health goals. Did you know most people with disordered eating, depression and inflammatory conditions (i.e. arthritis) have low intakes of omega-3 fatty acids? Consider a supplement with your doctor or dietitian.
8. Aim to reduce the number of times you compare how you eat to how others do! 🙂 Each person needs an individualized plan, which can make mealtime challenging if you are not comfortable with your relationship with your body or with food itself. You may have one sedentary average-height person who needs 1800 – 2000 calories per day or an athlete who needs 3000 – 3200 calories daily. Most college students should never eat less than 1600 calories (even if trying to lose weight). If you find yourself adjusting your intake to feel more comfortable with social eating, see #10!
9. Stop by the Health or Counseling Centers if you are not feeling well. Remember, how you nourish yourself impacts every aspect of your health…physical and emotional. And, stress can cause gastrointestinal upset such as diarrhea, cramps, bloating, constipation and loss of appetite. Health professionals can help you create better life balance to achieve a happier and healthier YOU!
10. If you struggle with disordered eating, seek out professionals to help you make a good plan towards recovery. With good goals and a caring support team, you can successfully make the changes needed to separate food from your feelings. Seek to empower yourself to use food as fuel and find coping alternatives to manage anxiety, depression and stress.