Image Credit: Tara Goldstein for The Campus Trainer
Being a college student with packed days of classes, schoolwork and friends doesn’t always make it easy to eat balanced and healthy meals. Not to mention the multitude of unhealthy options that college students are presented with on a daily basis, along with the dreaded “Freshman 15” that consumes many of our thoughts. This toxic concern has taken a negative toll on many students, and it has led to under-eating and failing to maintain healthy levels of nutrition for some. Even though many don’t realize it, staying healthy in college doesn’t just include eating your fruits and vegetables; it also consists of eating enough in general.
According to Kelley Bux, a Fitness Nutrition Specialist at the International Sports Sciences Association, females ages 17 to 24 should be eating a minimum of 1,500 calories, and males in that same age range should be eating no less than 2,000.These numbers are just a general guideline and vary depending on factors such as age, height, weight, and energy expenditure, meaning how active you are on a daily basis.
Bux also recognizes the dangers that social media has caused regarding weight loss and the heavily promoted idea that you’ll gain weight if you eat more than 1,200 calories a day. While it may not always seem easy, getting enough nutrition and eating enough meals throughout the day is crucial to staying healthy and fit in college. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle at college is difficult, but as my fellow peers and I have found, it’s not impossible, especially when we follow a daily general guideline.
Breakfast Typically, I like to start my days with oatmeal and another food that is high in protein. What that protein is varies day to day, but it could include having a quick protein bar if I’m on the go or eggs with toast on the days I have some more time. Breakfast establishes the baseline for the rest of your day, a point that Bux reiterates.
“Think about breakfast, lunch and dinner always having a vegetable in your meal, but if you can opt for eggs with spinach, or with peppers, just [a] little bit of something [vegetables]. It helps to get more vitamins and minerals in your body early in the day,” she said.
Avery Zwelleger, a freshman psychology major, also loves to eat oatmeal in the mornings along with some fruit and coffee. While making sure to maintain a healthy level of nutrition with your meals is important, you should also enjoy what you’re eating.“I eat what sounds good and enjoy it,” Zwelleger said.
Freshman Tadhg Martinez, who is in ROTC and works out everyday, said he focuses on protein for his breakfast. Martinez said, “I usually will have egg whites, some type of carb but not fried. I usually go for the cut up potatoes. Maybe a bowl of fruit and some sausage for some fat.” The focus of his meal is to make sure he has enough energy to make it through his day and his intensive workouts, while also making sure to nourish his body.
Lunch Lunch may be an easy meal for people to skip if they are busy attending classes or focused on studying for an exam. However, it is important to find time, even if it is just a quick meal or snack.
Bux offered some easy snack ideas, such as protein bars, greek yogurt with fruit, a cheese stick, nuts or seeds, and raw vegetables with dip. Bux particularly touched on the benefits of eating raw vegetables, nuts and seeds for our bodies, which are that it increases something known as our thermogenic effect that allows our body to get rid of body fat more efficiently.
Personally, my lunches could definitely be more nutritional since I usually just head back to my dorm and make myself a quick sandwich. However, I have been trying to incorporate more protein and vegetables into my meals.
For Zwelleger, she usually heads over to the dining hall and has some kind of salad with grilled chicken, a sandwich, or a wrap. For Martinez, he usually will have chicken, alongside a turkey sandwich and a side of rice or fruit.
Dinner Finally for dinner, I’ll go to the dinning hall and focus on eating protein with some sort of vegetable. Zwelleger also normally eats dinner at the dining hall and will have protein, vegetables, and carbs but changes it up based on what looks good.
“I focus on those three groups, unless it's pancake night of course,” Zwelleger said. Tadhg’s meal consists of two servings of a protein, either turkey or chicken, a carb which is usually rice or fries, and a vegetable.
All three of us happen to follow Bux’s recommended guidelines of picking a protein, whether that be fish, turkey, or chicken, and pairing it with a vegetable and carb. Bux also emphasizes the importance of carbs in our diet, despite it being often thought of as causing weight gain and thus has to be avoided. “Carbs are never the enemy. You need carbs for optimal nerve health and to fuel our bodies,” Bux said.
After dinner Zwelleger, Martinez, and I love to end our day with a treat. We like to treat ourselves to some of the delicious soft serve ice cream they have at the dining hall or grab one of the homemade desserts they’re serving that day. No matter what, we end our day with a yummy treat that makes us smile.
To some, combatting the “Freshman 15” may include skipping meals or eating bland, unenjoyable “healthy foods.” This should not be the mindset that we have as students trying to maintain a nutritious and balanced diet that allows us to perform efficiently at school. Instead, we should be focused on eating foods we enjoy while also making sure to satisfy our nutritional needs. Finding a healthy but maintainable balance in college is not easy. However, it is not as daunting as one may think, as long as the focus is on giving our bodies the fuel it needs while eating food that makes you feel good.