Making college meals more than fast food fare

Soon college freshman will be arriving on campuses, eager to start a new life experience. 

Is every college freshman doomed to gain those 15 pounds that have become legend among university students?  No, not if students can make wise choices when faced with unending dining hall, fast food, and restaurant items.

If you are new to the university scene, are a returning student, or know someone who is, here are a few suggestions to keep energy levels high and waistlines in line.

  • Eat regular meals and snacks.  Start the day with breakfast to rev up your metabolism.  Plan the day so that you have time for a meal or at least a nutritious snack if class schedules are tight.  Fresh fruit, nuts, cereals, raisins, and string cheese are easily packed and carried on campus. Eating a healthy meal or snack every three to five hours will keep you from grabbing that candy bar.
  • Choose whole grains.  Whole grain breads and bagels, oatmeal, quinoa, and barley provide healthy fiber that will fill you up and keep you going.  On the same note, include beans and peas in your day for fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Try to consume four cups of fruits and vegetables each day. Fruit with breakfast, a fruit and veggie with lunch and dinner, and then another for a snack will get you to that goal.  Single serving fruit packs are easy to through into a backpack for a quick snack.  When eating out, choose the plain janes, those fruits and veggies without fatty sauces and toppings.
  • Make milk (non-fat or low-fat) a part of your day.  Cow’s milk and fortified soy or nut beverages provide needed calcium and vitamin D.  Yogurt is another option that makes a great dessert or snack eaten plain or topped with fruit.
  • Aim for a protein source at every meal.  Choose lower fat options such as baked, roasted, steamed, or broiled fish (not fish sticks), chicken, pork, and beef.  Chicken and turkey breasts are leaner than the thighs and legs. Loin and round cuts of beef and pork are lean choices, too.  Not a meat-eater?  Go for eggs, legumes, tofu and other soy products, nuts, and seeds.  And the familiar nut or seed butter sandwiches (on whole grain) are convenient take-along lunches. 
  • Add heart-friendly fats, in moderation. These include olives, olive oil, avocadoes, nuts, and seeds.  Healthy fatty fish include sardines, salmon, and herring. 
  • Beware the soft-serve machine and late night parties.  These are waistline wreckers.
  • Drink water instead of sugary soda or high-fat coffees options.

Using portion control and eating from all food groups can go a long way towards keeping weight down and bodies healthy during the college years.  Combine good eating habits with 30 minutes of exercise on most days, and your body will thank you.

For more information on nutrition for college students and for meal trackers and other tools, visit MyPlate on Campus.

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