Walking around your college dining hall, you may find that people aren't eating healthy. It's understandable.
French fries, and steak and cheese sandwiches do tempt. Oh, and you can't forget about the bacon in the morning (yummy bacon!).
What Does the Research Say?
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), a majority of college students do gain weight from eating too many fatty foods. A report published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior shows that many students aren't even eating one serving of fruit or vegetables per day.
Have people forgotten that eating an apple a day keeps the doctor away? Maybe, but that can be fixed.
Is It Possible to Eat Healthy at College?
Absolutely! Your dining hall has many nutritious options. You just need a little discipline and creativity to establish a healthy diet. Here are five dining hall hacks that will turn you into a lean, mean studying machine (or at least help you stay healthy in college).
1. Aim for healthy fats.
Fats are part of a healthy diet, which means fat-free isn't always a desirable option. On top of that, your stomach might start growling in class.
The US Department of Agriculture recommends keeping total fat intake between 20 and 35 percent of calories. That doesn't mean you should eat a mammoth burger. Instead, go for healthy foods with fat, like fish, nuts and plant oils.
2. Blend your own meal.
Instead of going for an unhealthy meal deal, which probably includes a bag of chips and soda, mix and match to create your own nutritious lunch, breakfast or dinner.
For instance, at breakfast, you could buy a low-fat Greek yogurt, banana and whole-grain cereal. Mix the banana and cereal in with the yogurt to create a nutrition-packed breakfast. This gives you the calcium, protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals to start your day off right.
Have some water, tea or coffee, and you'll be ready to take on the world (or physics class).
3. Stay away from junk foods — no matter what.
Even though it may seem like it, you're not going to feel on top of the world after eating that fried chicken or processed meat. In fact, according to research from UCLA, a junk food diet makes you tired and sedentary, and can negatively impact cognition.
Now, while a fabulous meal of ice cream and pizza may be calling your name on a Friday night, you're better off grabbing a salad and getting your vegetables. If you need more protein to keep you going, think lean meats and seafood.
4. Dessert means fruit.
From blueberries to oranges to watermelon, pretty much every college dining hall has fruit. Don't grab cake for your post-meal snack. (If it's your birthday, you get a free pass).
If you have a sweet tooth, opt for fruits, which deliver vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. That's exactly what you need to maintain focus during class — and not snooze like the person sitting next to you.
5. Just say yes to eggs.
You're in college. You're probably on a budget. How can you eat healthy? The answer is eggs. They're cheap and packed with nutrition, including lots of protein and omega-3s, which are good for the brain.
Eggs can also help you avoid the freshman 15. During a study on how eggs benefit weight loss, researcher Nikhil V. Dhurandhar, PhD, found that eggs are a great way to get protein and not gain weight.
Living a Healthy Life in College
You need to be on top of your game in college. That means eating a healthy, balanced diet, not pounds of fries (literally). These dining hall hacks can help get you started on the path to a nutritious diet and help you stay healthy in college.
For more tips and info, check out Hocking College's dining hall menu for specific options.