Food 101: Healthy eating for college students
Written by E. McDonald, UF student
As easy as it is to let free pizza wash over you, healthy eating and the college life don’t have to be at odds. Striking a balance might seem overwhelming, but there are small steps that we can take to improve our nutrition, one better choice at a time. Here are some tips from Janis Mena, Master of Public Health and Registered Dietitian at the Student Health Care Center.
Healthy eating can be daunting, but small changes will eventually build into habits that will leave you feeling better.
Eat more frequently.
You read right. One step to eating better is eating more — by spreading out eating throughout the day, that is. Going several hours without any food makes it easier to overdo it when you’re feeling starved later. Instead, keep small snacks with you like dried or whole fruit, nuts, yogurt, or cheese to munch on between meals, and try to eat every few hours.
Increase your fruit and vegetable intake.
Did you know that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that roughly 90 percent of Americans don’t get their recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables? Whether you cook at home or hit up the dining halls, you should aim to eat at least two cups of vegetables and two servings of fruit a day. While it might sound like a lot, incorporating fruits and vegetables into what you already eat is easy. One big salad can cover your veggie servings in one fell swoop, or you can snack on snap peas, cherry tomatoes, or celery between classes. You can mix berries into your morning cereal or oatmeal and eat fruit cups on the go. Hate greens? Try freezing spinach, crunching it up, and tossing it into eggs or pasta sauce. Or grate carrots really finely — you’ll hardly know they’re there!
Carry around a water bottle with you.
Drinking enough water has a major effect on your health — even slight dehydration can lead to fatigue. One way to help ease into the habit is by filling a reusable bottle overnight, and grabbing it before heading out the same way you grab your keys or your phone.
Eating out? Split a plate.
Eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full is one aspect of what Mena calls mindful eating. Meals at restaurants tend to have inflated portions that include way more food than what you need to be satisfied. Don’t be afraid to eat half of your meal in the moment and half later — such is the beauty of to-go boxes. If you don’t have a way to store leftovers, try sharing meals with your friends. Everybody wins!
Healthy eating can be daunting, but small changes here and there will eventually build into habits that will leave you feeding and feeling better.
For even more healthy eating inspiration, check out the Gator Grub Cookbook from the SHCC and the Hungry Gator Cookbook from GatorWell Health Promotion Services (part of the Division of Student Affairs).