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