Despite the significant implications of healthy eating on overall long-term health, many college students engage in poor dietary habits, such as high intake of fast foods and other foods high in fat, low intake of fruits and vegetables, and dairy, and erratic eating behaviors such as meal skipping. A balanced diet can help students increase energy levels, promote a functioning immune system, improve their ability to cope with stress, and increase concentration and performance in school. Healthy eating is influenced by a variety of factors. For students in particular, factors influencing dietary habits include time, availability of healthy options, friends’ eating habits and nutritional knowledge.
Recommendations for Improvement
There are many actions that college students can take to eat in a healthful way and enjoy their college years without jeopardizing their health from excessive weight gain or weight loss. Some recommendations are:
- Get at least eight hours of sleep a night. Lack of sleeps affects one’s ability to concentrate and makes one feel tired. Sleep deprivation also seems to be connected with weight problems.
- Avoid skipping meals. When a meal is skipped, the subsequent hunger may cause one to overeat.
- Eat breakfast, which helps concentration and increases the likelihood of consuming calcium, folic acid, and vitamin C. These nutrients are often low in the diet of college students.
- Manage portion sizes. If portion sizes are underestimated, one may eat more calories than are needed. Also, the availability of a wide variety and mass quantities of “dorm” food (pizza, soda, etc.) may promote overeating and a significant increase of total energy intake.
- Drink water and eat fruit throughout the day. Water is calorie-free and fruits help manage urges to eat and contribute fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
- Avoid sweetened beverages such as soda, caffeine beverages, fruit drinks, sweetened teas and sports drinks. These beverages provide excess calories and few essential nutrients to student’s overall diet and should only be consumed in moderation.
- Exercise regularly. Physical activity helps burn off calories, helps manage stress, and promotes mental and physical stamina.
- Become familiar with the campus environment and the foods that are available.
- Try the low-calorie, low-fat, and vegetarian options available around campus. As part of a well-planned diet, these items can help manage total energy intake and introduce one to items that can become part of a regular diet.
Nutrition Tips specifically geared towards college students:
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