Between busy class schedules, social events and late nights, college life is not always conducive to healthy or regular eating. For many of us, hectic life routines present roadblocks to healthy eating. Time, money, access, attitudes, sleep, mood and even our relationships with food are reflected in our eating habits! For many college students dining halls and the delicious take-out down the street are often the go-to for daily nourishment. Asking yourself the right questions like, “What am I hungry for? What will nourish me? How does the food that I’ve chosen taste and make me feel?” — can lead you toward making healthy choices. Also embracing your creativity, paying attention to food preparation, and balancing a variety of foods are important elements to consider.
So you might wonder, what is healthy eating anyway? Or, how can I eat sensibly, hang out with my friends and study for my chemistry exam? First, let’s define normal eating. According to dietician and therapist, Ellyn Satter MS, RD, normal eating is going to the table hungry, eating until you’re satisfied, taking in at least three meals per day, and even overeating at times (Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family). Most importantly, she notes that normal eating is flexible and varies according to your schedule, hunger and feelings.
Food provides the human body with essential nutrients that are converted into energy — similar to the way gasoline fuels a car. Food impacts the way we feel and act. Balancing your daily meals with proteins (e.g., lean meats, soy products, beans) and carbohydrates (e.g., pasta, bread, rice) stimulates neurotransmitters that induce feelings of relaxation and alertness. So pairing these foods is important in managing your stress levels and concentration.
Here are some helpful tips that can make eating enjoyable and promote wellness:
• Take a few moments to be present while you eat. Savor each bite, put the fork down to allow for adequate chewing time, and pay attention to your tummy’s fullness!
• Avoid eating when you’re distracted, studying, or sleepy. We often lose sight of what and how much we’re taking in when we’re not paying attention.
• Ask yourself, how hungry am I on a scale of 1-10? What is my mood? What am I hungry for? Will I feel satisfied afterwards?
• Have water handy since drinking water flushes our systems and keeps us alert.
• Prepare food in advance and pack snacks. Munching on fruits, veggies, or mixed nuts in between meals keeps you full and focused!
• Don’t skip meals — this slows your metabolism and may lead to overeating.
• Practice the “healthy plate” by incorporating carbohydrates, proteins and vegetables into your meals.
• Don’t deprive — just moderate! Creating “no-no” food lists and ascribing “good” and “bad” labels to the foods may evoke feelings of frustration and deprivation.
• Avoid replacing food with caffeine and energy drinks void of nutritional value.
• Remember, the way that you eat reflects how you invest in and take care of yourself.
by Ainara Echanove, Psy.D.