There are few things that we must do everyday to stay healthy, and eating is one of them. For many students, college is a time in your life where your diet is completely up to you for the first time. While it may be fun to indulge every once in a while, being sure to maintain a healthy diet is beneficial to student success and life beyond college.
The best way to make sure that you are eating a nutritious diet is to vary your plate:
- Go with grains: choose whole wheat instead of white bread
- Vary your veggies: keep it colorful and eat several different types of vegetables
- Focus on fruit: try to eat a piece of fruit at every meal and snack
- Consume your calcium: milk, yogurt, soy, fortified orange juice
- Go lean with protein: lean meat, chicken, and fish (but take off the skin)
- Eat fats in moderation and choose healthy oils: olive or canola oil instead of vegetable oil
Visit choosemyplate.gov to see if your plate matches up!
Importance of Nutrition
Maintaining a healthy diet assures that your body is receiving the nutrients it needs in order to perform optimally. Having a balanced diet can help you maintain a healthy weight (which can protect against some forms of cancer and stroke), aid in concentration, and reduces the chance of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Establishing healthy habits now will provide a better chance of continuing these healthy habits later on in life.
Dining on campus
Think before you order. Choose lean meats like turkey or chicken instead of beef or bacon. Get veggies on your sub or with your Chinese food. Choose marinara sauce instead of alfredo. Try a side salad instead of fries. Try to get only one or two items from the grill in Southside and the rest from the salad bar. Check out Mason Dining for advice about where to find the healthiest meals on Mason’s campus. If you are interested in discussing your personal nutrition with a registered dietitian, contact Lois Durant. Her services are free!
Challenges to healthy eating
- Finances: Many people think that eating healthy is expensive, but there are ways to dine healthily on a budget. Consider buying in bulk among a group of friends and dividing and freezing portions for future use. Coupons are also a great way to save. Because poor nutrition leads to many health complications, it is more cost-effective to invest in your health by eating healthy food now, than having to pay high medical bills in the long run.
- Time: Balancing classes, work, extra-curricular responsibilities, family and friends can be time-consuming. If possible, plan ahead for your meals so that you have healthy meals on hand. Plan for multiple meals on Sunday, and prep all your ingredients for the week so that during the weekdays, food preparation is more efficient. Also, a crockpot is a great way to make delicious meals while saving time.
- Breakfast: Breakfast has the reputation of being the most important meal of the day, and it is true! After fasting all night, breakfast kick-starts your energy level, increasing your metabolism and providing the fuel needed to start your day. Studies show that eating breakfast reduces the rates of obesity and being overweight. Eating breakfast is important, but so is eating the right kind of breakfast. As tempting as it may be, you will stay satisfied longer with oatmeal, fruit, or yogurt than food with refined sugars such as pastries and sugary cereals.
- Stress: Oftentimes, stress can lead to over- or under-eating. By having healthy snacks on hand (for example, an apple with low-fat string cheese), you can fight hunger using small portable snacks.
Choose healthy foods instead of chips and packaged snacks. Some healthy snacks include:
- Trail mix
- Fresh or dried fruit
- Vegetable sticks
- Hummus and pita
- Low fat string cheese
It is certainly okay to still indulge in the occasional scoop of ice cream or cookie, just make sure to practice moderation. Making small changes will gradually change your eating habits at your own pace. Just ask, “Do I really need this?”
While many college students depend on caffeine to make it through each day of classes and studying, it is important to be careful with your caffeine intake. Too much caffeine can lead to high blood pressure and stress, more anxiety, and large amounts may prohibit the body’s ability to absorb calcium. It is perfectly fine to enjoy a cup of coffee or a diet coke in moderation, but too much caffeine can affect sleep patterns and become addictive.
HEAL Your Body Task Force
The HEAL Your Body (Healthy Eating and Love Your Body) Task Force is composed of Mason faculty, staff and students who are dedicated to connecting students struggling with body image and/or disordered eating to services on campus, preventing eating disorders and raising awareness regarding the severe impacts of eating disorders on individuals and our Mason community.
HEAL Your Body Task Force At Mason
The HEAL Your Body Task Force’s biggest initiative is the annual HEAL Your Body week at the end of February. The task force has also created presentations regarding healthy body image, identifying eating disorders and creating a healthy lifestyle by balancing nutrition and exercise. These presentations are available for free to the Mason community upon request to the HEAL Your Body Task Force. With these programs, the task force works to build community and celebrate cultural diversity by addressing the local, national and global issues related to eating disorders.
HEAL Your Body Week on a College Campus
College is a period of development in which disordered eating is likely to arise, resurface or worsen for many young men and women. Full-blown eating disorders typically begin between 18 and 21 years of age. Access to education, screenings, and mental health resources are important for getting individuals to seek proper treatment and support, or be able to detect and refer other students who may be struggling. The increased pressure and stress of school and leaving home may lead to mental health problems among college students and a greater need for campus services. Given that eating disorders are the mental illness with the highest mortality rate, early detection, intervention and treatment is extremely important and gives an individual the best chance of recovery.
The HEAL Your Body Task Force is always looking for passionate members to get involved! For more information please feel free to contact Angela Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out our Facebook page at HEAL Your Body Mason