One of the top 12 unhealthy eating habits many college students have is skipping breakfast, a journal article from “Nutrients” says.
Skipping meals is common among university students. However, experts advise to stick to three meals a day in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
According to Dr. Sriparna Mitra, a Maryland-based pediatrician, eating three proper meals a day allows nutrient uptake, which allows adequate cellular function within the body. If students fail to do so, academic performance can be affected.
The reason behind this is that missing a meal can cause hypoglycemia, also known as low glucose levels. “That can cause headaches, fatigue and difficulty in concentration,” Mitra said. “Glucose is an important component in cellular function.”
Everything in excess is bad, eating more than three full meals a day is inadvisable too. The excess calorie intake can lead to an increased risk of obesity and its complications, including diabetes and heart disease. “However, it is okay to eat small snacks in between meals,” said Mitra.
Cheat meals in moderation are also okay too. In fact, a study concluded that occasional “cheat” meals prevented individuals from overindulging in unhealthy food.
As stated by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, an adult’s diet should consist of a total of 45-65% carbohydrates, 10-35% protein and 20-35% fat. Therefore, the sum of the three meals and snacks a regular college student eats in a day should aim to represent these percentages.
Another diet trend is to consume six smaller meals a day. Nevertheless, a study from the European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism found that glucose levels of non-obese individuals were elevated for long periods of time when they had six small meals a day in comparison to three regular meals. This could potentially cause an excess of glucose in the bloodstream, known as hyperglycemia.
Students mentioned that sometimes they feel the need to skip a meal due to time restraints with academics. Michael Auth, a freshman mechanical engineering major, said that he used to skip lunch frequently. “I’ve started to eat lunch more often than not. Although, if I have a lot of work I won’t eat lunch,” Auth said.
On the other hand, freshman business major Mary Catherine Canary said that eating three times a day is a necessity for her as she takes on college life. She also makes sure to snack in order to avoid getting hangry. Canary added, “A meal before class helps me focus, a meal in between Zoom calls gives me a break and energy to keep going, and a meal in the evening lets me relax and feel totally satisfied before doing homework and going to bed.”