When it comes to feeling your best and performing your best, what you put into your body is the best way to be in control. These are some tips and tricks I’ve learned while in college and hopefully can help you as much as it helped me.
Read the Label
For students who live off-campus or opt-out of their university’s meal plan, cooking and preparing your own meals becomes a part of your everyday life. Making sure that you know what you’re buying and putting into your body can make a huge difference in how you feel. Eating right starts with reading what’s on your food label. Don’t be fooled by the clever marketing tactics and the claims on the packaging -- inspect the label and check the ingredients. Ingredients are listed in descending order of weight so if the first few ingredients aren’t natural or organic, such as “High Fructose Corn Syrup” instead of sugar or “Wheat Flour” instead of whole wheat, the “food” you’re eating might not be what it claims to be.Checking your serving sizes is also a key part of maintaining a healthy diet. Keep track of your daily caloric intake as well as other nutrients like vitamins and minerals. The lower the saturated fats, added sugars, and sodium in your diet, the better -- and your body will thank you for it in the future.
Eat Three Meals a Day
It can be challenging to eat three meals a day especially with classes and commitments, but it is essential for your brain and body to perform its best throughout the day. In my first year at school, I’d skip breakfast almost every day and just have lunch and dinner, but I’ve come to realize that eating breakfast actually helps me feel less tired in the morning and be more productive. Breakfast can keep your hunger at bay throughout the day and stop you from making impulsive eating decisions. Eating three timely meals a day helps boost metabolism and balance blood sugar levels. College students have busy schedules and being on-the-go can deter you from eating certain meals. When that’s the case, having some healthy snacks like fruit, granola bars, or even yogurt can make a huge difference.
Substitution is Key
Chips, cookies, candy, and other snacks that are high in calories, sugar, and sodium can cause health concerns down the road. Swapping them for healthier alternatives is the best way to feel better, create healthier habits, and open your mind up to different and novel foods. Fruits and vegetables may not seem enticing at first, but find the right ones that you can slowly acquire a taste for and eat them as a snack in place of less healthy choices. Fruits and vegetables have natural sugars, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber that junk food can’t replicate, so next time you’re at the dining hall or the grocery store swap the pie for pears.
Changing your diet and lifestyle won’t happen overnight so making a substitute every so often is more practical than trying to change everything you eat on a daily basis. Switching white bread for whole grain and sugary sodas for seltzer are great alternatives that can be implemented into your daily routine. These are just some examples of what makes a healthier alternative; there are plenty of substitutes out there for every kind of person. With that being said, It’s important to keep track of what you eat and how much. A general rule of thumb I like to use when shopping is, if I can’t pronounce the first 2-3 ingredients and it's something I've never heard of before, I usually put it back on the shelf. Once you have a general understanding of the kinds of foods you’re incorporating with your meals, you can focus on the amount you eat throughout the day. College students have busy lifestyles, so three meals a day might be tricky but keeping your body and brain fueled throughout the day is a must. If you can balance your diet by choosing healthier options and being consistent with meal preparations, not only will you feel better, but you’ll also perform better.
WRITTEN BY Brandon Moon Rutgers University
Brandon is a Junior at Rutgers University majoring in Economics and is a Student Ambassador for Macmillan Learning. He’s very interested in fashion, music, sports, culture, food, and especially sandwiches. He used to work in the food industry and knows how to craft a mean sandwich.