As a registered dietitian here at Messiah College, I occasionally hear students comment that there aren’t any healthy meal option on campus. Others may be concerned about avoiding “the freshman fifteen.” And still, others may crave the comfort foods of home cooking. So these issues beg the question, “How do you go away to college, and stay on track with all of these nutritional concerns – eating a healthy diet that still tastes good while avoiding those extra pounds?” It may sounds difficult, but by following these nutrition tips for a balanced, healthy diet, you are sure to meet your goals:
- Make smart choices when eating at Lottie. Choose healthy food options including loading your plate with vegetables, choosing whole grains, and selecting lean protein sources. Remember, when you look at your plate, half of it should be filled with vegetables. Check out the www.ChooseMyPlate.gov website for a visual display of other healthy plate ideas.
- Enjoy the salad bar! Fresh fruits and vegetables contain fiber and loads of vitamins and minerals which all play important roles in maintaining optimal health. Fiber helps aid digestion and keep you feeling full longer, while vitamins and minerals are involved in many different body systems including immunity, healthy blood and bones, and may even help to prevent long term illness such as cancer and heart disease. Be aware of some of the higher calorie items on the salad bar, however, including creamy dressings, croutons and higher fat cheeses. These can be used in moderation, but if you are watching calories, excess amounts may tip the scales!
- Use low-fat or non-fat dairy items to help meet your calcium, protein and vitamin D requirements. Studies show that many teens and young adults are not getting enough of these nutrients, often due to choosing sugary beverages instead of milk. When this happens, we not only consume empty calories, but we lose out on calcium and vitamin D. Furthermore, sodas tend to contain a high amount of phosphorous which competes with calcium for absorption. The result – our bones lose out! Another benefit of low-fat or non-fat dairy is that studies show people who consume about 3 servings of dairy per day tend to maintain healthier weights. Try adding yogurt, low- or non-fat milk, and lower fat cheese such as Swiss cheese to your tray. If you are unable to choose dairy products, select an alternate product such as almond milk or rice milk.
- Watch your portion sizes. We live in a society where bigger portion sizes in restaurants are often considered a better value. This has caused many of us to lose focus of what a healthy portion size really is. Use these guidelines to help visualize how much should be on your plate:
*3 oz. meat or fish = a deck of cards or a checkbook
*1 cup pasta, rice or couscous = a baseball
*1.5 oz. cheese = 3 dice
*1 cup raw or cooked vegetables = a baseball
Check out the http://www.webmd.com/diet/healthtool-portion-size-plate website for a great interactive tool to help visualize many other healthy portion sizes.
As you use these HELM nutrition tips on campus, you will navigate your way to healthy eating on campus!
If you have questions or comments, please feel free to post them on this site.
Susan Gilbert, RD LDN
Messiah College Dietitian/Nutritionist