When you think about college students and dining—what types of food pops into your mind? Most likely burgers, pizza and chips? When you think of campus eating, fast food is likely the first thing you think of.
Students shouldn’t have to eat foods that will leave them feeling depleted, bloated, and tired. Most students think this will help give them some energy when they are up late at night studying or working on a fast essay. Making healthier food choices will have a more positive impact not only when they are studying but on their leisure time as well.
As student-athletes are well aware, eating healthy food and drinking plenty of water will help them sustain their energy levels, fuel their muscles, and help them recover much faster.
Here are some healthy food tips to help students eat better while they are away from home:
Avoid fast food joints
If you’re near a fast-food joint, your food choices will be limited to fast food. But if you take the time to shop at a nearby grocery store that offers whole or healthy foods, such as fruits, bagged carrots, nuts, hummus, you can quickly expand your healthier food options and limit junk-food temptations.
Eat more often and in smaller amounts
Eating smaller portions of healthy foods during your day sends a message to your brain that the food supply is plentiful, which means that it’s fine for you to burn through those calories faster. Minimizing your calorie intake while at a single sitting also provides you with more energy. Consuming too many calories in one meal — even if they are healthy ones — sends your brain a signal that leaner times might be around the corner, so those calories will need to stored as fat versus energy. Eating too much at one time can also make you feel much more sluggish and tired.
Eat more protein
By eating the right amount of complete protein for your weight level and activity level, it can stabilize your blood sugar by preventing energy lapses, enhances your concentration, and keeps your body much more lean and strong. A complete protein is any animal and dairy product or even a grain plus a legume (such as whole grain bread with nut butter, or corn tortilla with beans). When you need some energy for a long night of studying, working, or yes, even partying, fill your body with some high-quality, lean protein.
Pack snacks so you’re not skipping meals
Snacking is okay. Often when students are away at home, they just don’t have the same access to food at regular intervals like they used to. Or worse, they may just skip meals so they can have a big piece of pie and ice cream later. The problem is, however, your body responds as if it’s facing a food shortage and your metabolism dwindles to prevent you from starving. To keep your mind and body running at its highest capacity, pack healthy snacks in your dorm or apartment or even your backpack. Some examples are almonds, raw vegetables and hummus, yogurt and berries, fresh and dried fruit, and hard-boiled eggs.
Avoid “feel bad” foods
Avoid those foods you immediately crave but after you eat them you feel sick or depleted. When you are away form home, it’s important to eliminate the types of food that can drain your energy and deflate your mood.
Here are some of those foods you should avoid:
- Simple carbohydrates or high glycemic foods, such as fruit juices, sodas, refined grain products, or sugary snacks
- Anything deep fried
- Nonfat desserts and sweeteners, which are loaded with chemicals that your body can’t easily metabolize
- Anything partially hydrogenated (this includes nondairy creamer, Jiffy-style peanut butter, margarine, and most packaged baked goods
- Excess alcohol
Drink lots of water
Your body needs water for almost all of its functions. Drinking plenty of water will flush your body of toxins, keep your skin fresh, and help you eat less. It will also help you avoid travel lag, symptoms of overexposure to the heat or sun, and junk-food cravings. Believe it or not, many of the unhealthy cravings we experience on the road can be satisfied with a refreshing drink of pure water.