Learning to eat well in college isn’t just about avoiding the dreaded Freshman Fifteen; it’s about getting the right balance of nutrition to feed our brains and fuel our bodies in order to feel amazing. This week, integrative nutritionist, Jennie Miremadi, is sharing her top tips for mastering collegiate wellness in our fall series here on TCM.
Whether you’re eating between classes, in the dorms, or off-campus in your adorably decorated new digs, Jennie is showing us how to navigate the waters…
When You’re In The Dorms…
In a college dorm cafeteria, you have unlimited food at your fingertips for every meal. From make-your-own ice cream bars to oven-baked pizza to fettuccine with cream sauce, it’s easy to indulge in food that can leave you feeling unwell. Stay on track with your nutrition goals by setting an intention to make healthy choices, listening to your body and taking these steps to follow through:
Grab a dinner plate and fill it with a combination of protein, healthy fat and fiber-rich carbohydrates from real, whole-foods sources.
Protein | Good options for protein include eggs, chicken and turkey.
Good Fats | Extra-virgin olive oil, avocado, olives, coconut oil, nuts and seeds are good choices for healthy fats.
Fiber | Nutritious, fiber-rich carbs include non-starchy vegetables (e.g., green vegetables, cauliflower, fennel), non-glutenous grains (e.g., quinoa, brown rice), starchy vegetables (e.g., sweet potatoes, butternut squash) and legumes (e.g., chickpeas, lentils). Pick a combination of your favorites, but try to fill at least half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables!
Pro tip: Because food is so abundant in a dorm dining hall, it’s important to eat with your stomach, not your eyes. In other words, let your hunger levels be the gauge for how much you eat. Before you go back for a second plate, wait twenty minutes and check in with your stomach. If your stomach is still hungry, get more food. If it isn’t, stop there and remind yourself that if you get hungry later, you can always have a snack in your dorm room.
When You’re On Campus All Day…
Skipping breakfast and lunch when you’re on campus all day will make it hard for you to concentrate in class, and will also set you up to make unhealthy choices later on. If you get back from class and you haven’t eaten all day, you’ll be more likely to grab whatever you can find, even if it’s unhealthy, and it will be much harder for you to listen to your body’s hunger signals and stop eating when you’re satiated. The key to eating healthy when you’re on campus all day is to plan ahead. Here is a good place to start:
Breakfast |Wake up early enough to eat breakfast before class.
If you’re eating in the dorms: Skip the waffle bar and choose eggs or oatmeal instead. Eat your eggs with lots of veggies. Make your oats more nutrient-rich (and filling) by bringing chia seeds, flax seeds, powdered greens and/or collagen peptides with you as add-ins.
If you live off campus: make a healthy breakfast the night before so that it’s ready to go the next morning. Easy-to-prep options include green protein smoothies, overnight oats and collard wraps with hardboiled eggs and veggies.
Lunch | Create your class schedule so that you have lunch break.
If you live in the dorms, make a meal to-go in the morning before you leave for class. If your dorm meal plan enables you to eat at restaurants on campus, find a healthy lunch spot and make that your go-to.
When You’re Living in An Apartment…
Once you move into an apartment, you’re on your own for meals. If you’re on a budget and you’re busy, it can be tempting to rely on food that’s cheap and easy to make, even if it isn’t healthy (i.e. processed, packaged foods like ramen and boxed mac and cheese.) These foods might be inexpensive and easy to prep, but they lack nutrients and contain inflammatory ingredients – so avoid them. Opt instead for the cheapest healthy option — buying real, whole foods and making your own meals*.
You can cut down on your prep time by shopping, prepping and cooking the bulk of your meals on one day of the week. Here are some tips to help get you started:
Plan | Create a calendar detailing all of the meals that you plan to eat for the week. Make a shopping list and buy the ingredients that you’ll need to prepare those meals.
Prepare | Prep proteins, starchy vegetables, grains, one-pot meals and soups — separate them into individual portions, and label, date and freeze them. The night before each meal, take whatever you’re going to eat the next day out of the freezer and put it in the fridge to thaw. If you’re having salads, wash, peel, cut and chop all of your fresh veggies on your prep day, and make a couple of homemade salad dressings for the week.
Re-Purpose | To cut down on cooking time, buy a half organic rotisserie chicken and use it over the course of two or three days. Throw it in salads, soups and other meals.
*Food insecurity is a major problem on college campuses. If you’re struggling, there are resources that can help. There are many food pantries where home growers donate food — you can find one near you to pick up fresh produce. Additionally, the College and University Food Bank Alliance (CUFBA) reports 531 affiliated colleges and universities in the United States with campus-based food pantries that provide food to students in need.