Healthy College Food

Health and college students: can they get along?

1 bowl mac 'n' cheese + 2 slices pizza + 1 vanilla milkshake = College student health nightmare

The excuses are expounded faster than the microwave can "DING" signaling the delectable delight of Easy Mac and Cheese is ready. These excuses stem from the age-old philosophical clash of being a college student and eating healthy. Students and health are about as compatible as spicy chili and your digestive system the next day.
While many students are simply "too busy" to prepare a home cooked meal, this doesn't mean that fast food "grab-n-go" is the only choice.

Students like to think that they are the busiest people on earth. And perhaps they very well might be. From classes to student government meetings to basketball practice, college kids often have a jam-packed schedule. So, what to do?

Eating Out

More than likely the school's cafeteria offers healthy alternatives to fried chicken and stuffed calzones. Most universities have a vegetarian menu and salad bar. Try ordering a grilled chicken sandwich or eggplant sub instead of foods submerged in oil. Want a cookie or piece of cake? Take a banana or apple instead. Eying the soft serve ice cream machine? Opt instead for yogurt or tapioca pudding. If you are not one to be caught dead in the school café but still maintain a healthy diet, you should consider avoiding the drive-through of local fast-food restaurants.
A good deli sandwich is a satisfying alternative to abate your hunger. Whole wheat or rye bread with your choice of meat, cheese, lettuce, onions, and tomatoes offer a healthy and tummy-pleasing alternative to grease-ridden fried burgers and fries.

If you decide to visit a restaurant for some "classy" food, be aware of what you are ordering.
Red meats are good in moderation (as is everything), but chicken and fish are often times wonderful and zesty substitutes, as long as they are not deep-fried or smothered in sauce. A good salad will often fill you up, but avoid heavy dressings such as: Caesar, cream- and cheese-based. Red vinaigrette is a better choice to liven up your leafy meal. Deep-fried foods such as shrimp, scallops, chicken wings, etc. and fat-saturated foods such as burgers and pizza should be avoided if possible.

Dining In

Want to play chef? Put these food items on your shopping list in place of instant microwaveable dinners: broccoli, corn, spinach, carrots, chicken, pasta, vegetable sauce, apples, oranges, fruit juice, 1% or skim milk, bottled water (or a filter for home use), corn bread, oatmeal, yogurt, eggs, and so forth. Try to be balanced, such as eating a meal that has rice, spinach, and chicken. Starches are important even though people will tell you that fewer carbohydrates is better. If you are exercising regularly, you will need some carbs to burn while working out.
Just avoid eating pasta and canned sauce every night of the week.

Try getting a bit inventive in the kitchen, even though you might think that it's only for the truly experienced of heart. A recipe is made so that anyone can follow it, as long as you have a few measuring cups and spoons readily available. There are cookbooks specifically designed to help cook a healthy and hearty meal quickly.

More About Healthy Eating:
• Healthy College Student Tips
• Back to School Lunchbox Goodies
• Lunch Recipes

Healthy Habits for College Students

Even if you find the discipline to stop eating those gosh-darn tasty french fries from Mickey-D's, keep in mind that a healthy diet is a complete diet. You've guessed it, time to hit the gym. Most universities will offer free access to their fitness facilities. But you can oft times get a student discount for a gym near your home. Utilize the YMCA and parks nearby as venues to walk/jog/run a couple of miles each week or do a muscular work out. A regimen of solid aerobic exercise of 20-30 minutes five days a week should very quickly have you in a smaller pair of jeans with a get-up-and-go attitude.

Try to watch when you eat. Breakfast, as if it hasn't been said a million times before, is the most important meal of the day. Most people forego a bowl of cereal for a cup of coffee and a donut. Try having a glass of orange juice or milk in the morning. Add a bowl of oatmeal, corn flakes, or some wheat toast with jelly. Not only will you find yourself more energized for the day's activities, you undoubtedly will be more Cheerio! in the morning. When you eat late at night, your body does not have the same opportunity to process and digest the food properly. Thus, that 3:30 AM cheesecake is going to stick around for a few extra days.

Drink plenty of water. By plenty, I mean a whole heck of a lot. Water helps keep your skin smooth and tricks your body into feeling full on very few calories. This does not mean that you can drink water all day without eating. However, drinking eight glasses of water a day helps keep your body hydrated as well as flushes out your system to help fight off illness.

Although I will not offer my own spiritual preferences as the status quo for all who read this article, meditation is a great way to help prevent stress. You may assume that power walking a mile or two will "sweat out the stress." Not necessarily so. A few minutes may be all you need. A quiet room with a chair or bean bag to relax in. Just concentrate on your breathing for 5-10 minutes. Listen to your lungs inhale and exhale. Breathe slowly and gently.

I also enjoy lighting a few candles (aromatherapy candles work well, but regular are fine) in a room with some soothing music (jazz, classical, opera or nature music all work well). But, remember you need to find what works best to relax you to help you forget the worries of the day.

-- Article by special student correspondent Christopher Roddy

About Christopher Roddy
Christopher is a student at Fordham University in NYC. He majors in journalism and international studies. He currently is an assistant editor for the university newspaper, interns in the TV broadcasting industry, and works for a leading interactive services firm as a research analyst in interactive television. He writes for several online publications on topics such as: technology, sports, college issues. and food/health. He would ideally like to be the next Edward R. Murrow, but in the mean time, enjoys being a freelancer and is working on a children's book.

More About Healthy Eating:
• Healthy College Food
• Back to School Lunchbox Goodies
• Lunch Recipes