It’s time for young adults to enjoy new-found freedom! If your child is going back to college, arm her with tips to stay energized and make healthy food choices.

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Back to Campus? Eat Right!

As a mom, I want to be sure my child is eating well and is healthy. As I exchange notes with my friends, I know that excitement is in the air with back-to-college season. It’s time for young adults to enjoy their new-found freedom! If your child or a young relative is going back to college, arm them with tips to stay energized and make healthy food choices.

The dining-hall salad bar can be an asset if you make smart choices. Encourage them to stock up on leafy greens, raw vegetables and fresh fruit. A grilled chicken sandwich can be a good stand-by option. And try to steer clear of creamy dressings, bacon bits, full-fat cheese and mayo-based salads. More good ideas:

  • Celebrate (eat) breakfast every day.
  • If you don’t take money with you to class, you won’t be tempted to stop at the cafeteria or vending machines between classes.
  • Eat foods rich in calcium. Not a fan of milk? Try low-fat yogurt, low-fat cheese and leafy green vegetables like spinach.
  • Try to avoid soda as much as you can! It’s full of empty calories and too much sodium (yes, there’s sodium in pop!).
  • If fast food is the only option, choose wisely: pizza with half the cheese, regular-sized roast beef sandwich, baked potato or green salad with reduced-calorie dressing.
  • Skip the French fries, fried chicken and fish sandwiches and avoid creamy salad dressings.
  • Try not to eat after 7 or 8 p.m., and get the sleep your body needs for energy and motivation.

Snack time!

Do you crave snacks while you study? If you’re a nibbler, try these healthy options.

  • Yogurt
  • Rice cakes
  • Lite popcorn
  • String cheese
  • Nuts or seeds
  • Fresh or dried fruit
  • Cottage cheese
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Hummus and baked chips
  • Fruit or vegetable juice
  • Celery with low-fat peanut butter
  • Granola bars
  • Trail mix

If you want to be more health-conscious…

Keep healthy snacks on hand so vending machine options won’t tempt you. How about fresh or dried fruit, pretzels, unbuttered popcorn, rice cakes or whole-wheat crackers? If you have a mini-fridge, stock it with raw veggies, low-fat yogurt and bottled tea.

Drink lots of water… at least eight glasses a day, even more if you exercise regularly. Carry a water bottle to class and late-night study sessions.

Another tip I learned and want to share: alcohol has no nutritional value – just empty calories. A light beer, glass of wine or ounce of liquor has about 100 calories. More importantly, be responsible.

Most college campuses have a dietitian on staff – see if you can talk to yours; the service is usually free of charge.

Live off-campus?

Lucky you! You’ll have more control over your nutrition. You’ll eat better – and more cheaply!

  • Cook big batches of soup, chili, or rice with veggies, then separate into portions for a quick, healthy meal any time.
  • Make up a big jar of sun tea. It’s refreshing and inexpensive, and a nice change from plain water.
  • A dozen eggs go a long way for a couple bucks: egg salad, hard-boiled eggs, or quick omelets.
  • Eating out? Ethnic restaurants break up the “sandwich” monotony and can be a great value. Satisfy a craving for Mexican food with a side of rice and beans… filling and inexpensive.

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