The saying, “You are what you eat,” implies that the kind of food you consume has a significant influence on your physical and mental well-being. Food decides whether you gain or lose weight, and whether your body has enough sustaining energy.
“Lose the diet mentality. Healthy eating is a lifestyle, not a quick fix for spring break. When you combine it with regular physical activity, you’re going to lose weight and keep your energy up while doing it,” said Chris Arterberry, associate director of fitness and wellness at DePaul University.
If you’re running low on energy, focus on trying to choose “pick-me-ups” that don’t have a lot of sugar or unnecessary calories. Coffee is a better option to get a caffeine jolt, instead of choosing an energy drink. Energy drinks are full of caffeine, sugar, citric acid, glucuronolactone and half a dozen other unpronounceable ingredients. Fruit and vegetables are a great source of fiber and vitamins, and provide energy for your body while giving a boost to your immune system.
Energy is not the only factor influenced by what you eat; weight matters too. Every incoming freshman has feared the “freshman 15.” Although some studies have shown that the “freshman 15” is a bit of an exaggeration, one study conducted by Rena Wing, a psychologist and her team at the weight control center of Brown University, states that students are still leaving their first semester five to seven pounds heavier than when they started college.
Arterberry suggests changing your eating habits, exercising and engaging in activities like taking stairs instead of the elevator and walking instead of driving. “All of that activity adds up over time,” he said
According to CBS News, more than 17 percent of students were overweight or obese, compared to the 14 percent at the start of Freshman year. Instead of eating out of a vending machine, choose snacks that contain whole grains, fruits, vegetables, vitamins and minerals. Granola bars are now offered in most vending machines and are a much better option then a candy bar.
“Cafeterias can be dangerous. Stay away from fried foods and load up on vegetables and fruit. If a student doesn’t have access to a cafeteria and is on a tight budget, she or he will want to set aside time to cook healthy meals. This is true for even working professionals – people on the go, regardless of their age, should either make time to prepare healthy meals or make sure they have the money to spend on healthier options,” said Arterberry.
Choosing to eat healthy is part of a lifestyle. With the growing availability of junk food, it is easy to choose to eat poorly.
"I suspect part of this is they now have access to large amounts of food they can eat freely, without anyone at home saying enough is enough,” according Thomas Wadden, president of the Obesity Society and director of the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, as reported by CBS News.
Instead of eating a piece of pizza for dinner, opt for the salad bar and ask for a “to go” box so you can bring vegetables back to your room to snack on later. Or choose healthier “fast food” options like Subway, Freshii and Cosi, where they offer nutritional benefits without the extra calories. If you have the option to shop and cook for yourself, there is a larger selection of food to use in your cooking. “Some fruits and vegetables can be purchased inexpensively and are great snacks, such as bananas or carrots,” suggested Arterberry. “Another option is healthier frozen meals, although they’re not ideal.”
Arterberry also recommends avoiding an “all-or-nothing” approach to exercise and nutrition, in which people set a goal, stay on course for a short period of time, but then quit as soon as they hit a bump in the road.
“A person may start in January with a goal to exercise three times per week, and is able to keep it up for a few weeks, but then only exercises once during midterm’s week, so they quit. Instead, they should cut themselves some slack by recognizing it was a busy period, and simply get back to the three days the following week,” said Arterberry.
Though it may sound cliché, Arterberry added, eating healthy foods and getting enough sleep beats coffee and energy drinks.
“Your body has to work harder to process junk food, which drains it of energy, and skipping out on sleep just makes it worse. This ultimately affects your success in college and life, because your brain can’t function optimally when you give it bad fuel and don’t let it rest,” said Arterberry.
College News recommends these healthy snacks and drinks:
Subway: Turkey Breast Sandwich
Cosi: Rustic Flatbread
Freshi: Signature wrap
General Mills: Nature Valley Oats N’ Honey
Fruits and Vegetables
Kashi: Snack Bars
Starbucks: Mocha Light Frappuccino
Argo Tea: Pom Tea/ Green Tea
Dunkin’ Donuts: Signature Coffee