Between busy class schedules, social events and late nights, college life is not always conducive to healthy or regular eating. For many of us, hectic life routines present common roadblocks to healthy eating. Factors such as time, money, access, attitudes, sleep, mood and even our relationships with food are reflected in our eating habits. For many college students, cafeterias and the delicious take-out down the street are often the go-to for daily nourishment. Asking yourself the right questions, embracing your creativity, being prepared and moderating a variety of foods are components to a healthy diet.
You might wonder, “What is healthy eating anyway?” or “How can I eat sensibly, hang out with my friends and study for my chemistry exam?” It might be helpful to first define normal eating. According to dietician and therapist Ellyn Satter, normal eating is going to the table hungry, eating until you’re satisfied, not restricting, taking in at least three meals per day and even overeating at times. Most importantly, she notes that normal eating is flexible and varies according to your schedule, hunger and feelings.
Food provides the human body with essential nutrients that are converted into energy, similar to the way gasoline fuels a car. So, when making the choice between Shell and Chevron, I encourage you to explore foods that promote our body’s optimal functioning. For some, starting a food/mood/behavior log can shed light on the kinds and amounts of food we eat and how they make us feel and behave. Balancing our daily meals with proteins such as lean meats, soy products and beans and carbohydrates such as pasta, bread and rice stimulates neurotransmitters that induce relaxation and alertness. Pairing these foods is essential in managing your stress levels and concentration.
Here are some helpful tips that can make eating both enjoyable and good for you. First off, take a few moments to be present while you eat. Savor each bite, put the fork down to allow for adequate chewing time and pay attention to your tummy’s fullness!
Avoid eating when you’re distracted, studying, or sleepy. We often lose sight of what and how much we’re taking in.
Ask yourself questions like “How hungry am I on a scale of one to ten?” “What is my mood?” “What am I hungry for?” and “Will I feel satisfied afterwards?”
Have water handy. Drinking water flushes our systems and keeps us alert. You should also prepare food in advance and pack snacks. Munching on fruits, veggies, or mixed nuts in between meals keeps you full and focused.
Don’t skip meals. This slows your metabolism and may lead to overeating.
Practice the “healthy plate” idea by incorporating carbohydrates and proteins into your meals. Don’t forget about your vegetables, either
Don’t deprive, just moderate. Creating “no-no” food lists and ascribing “good” and “bad” labels to the foods may evoke feelings of frustration and deprivation.
Avoid replacing food with caffeine and energy drinks void of nutritional value.
Remember, food is just part of your life and a diet is a lifestyle.
Ainara Echanove holds a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Lewis and Clark College, and is a Doctoral Candidate at the Pacific University School of Professional Psychology.