Eating Healthy in College: Setting the Mood

I learned a lot in my time at Ohio State about how to eat healthy as a college student, probably enough tips for at least ten posts. For now, I will limit it to five tips and say To Be Continued…

The tips today are mainly about setting yourself up to eat healthy (the tips about actual food will come later). Come to think of it, these rules probably apply to a wider population than college students. Give it a read and let me know what you think!

When I was 16 or so, after a feast of Kraft Mac’n’Cheese, there was a small-ish portion of the orange stuff leftover, and I had my eye on it. I stood in the kitchen, surveying the rest of the mess I had left to clean up, eating the remaining pasta out of the pot with a giant plastic serving spoon.

My dad walked in the kitchen and, upon seeing me, doubled over with laughter.

“What?” I asked.

“You are definitely ready for college. No bowl, no plate, no real silverware…straight from the pot to your mouth,” he said.

At the time, I shrugged it off. It seemed like such an effort to put it into bowl (still does, if I’m being honest). And therein lies my first rule to eating healthy as a college student:

1) Make as little mess as possible when cooking, because cooking is a lot of work. In my experience, if you have to cook AND wash a lot of things after, you are much less likely to cook to begin with. (If a recipe required mixing things in several separate bowls or supplies that had to be hand washed, forget it. Game over. That recipe was history.)

**One great idea I learned from my roommates: Cover all pans (that are being used in the oven) with tinfoil before using. When you’re done, you throw the tinfoil away and the pan is still spotless!

This tinfoil trick is the main reason I was able to incorporate fish (tilapia..yum) into my diet. No way was I going to scrub away at caked on fish juice…

2) NEVER go shopping when you’re hungry. Even as a nutrition graduate, if I go shopping when I’m hungry, I end up with all sorts of unhealthy crap in my cart, like French Onion dip (GASP!), Rum Raisin ice cream (oh no!), and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups cereal (uh oh). Go shopping after a meal, with a list, and stick to it.

3) Try to go shopping when you have enough time to come home and clean all those healthy fruits and veggies you just bought. I preferred to shop on Saturdays or Sundays, because the weekdays got so busy that I simply didn’t have the time to wash and peel carrots, celery, peppers, berries, lettuce, etc, etc. On those busy days, if I hadn’t cleaned everything to begin with, I would grab something less healthy while my beautiful fruits and veggies went uneaten.

4) Even though your mom or grandma says it’s sacrilege to buy bagged salad, it’s okay in college. Better that than no salad because you didn’t have time to wash your romaine and spinach. (My mother is the Queen of the Salad Makers, and even she reluctantly says that bagged salad is better than no salad.)

5) I know college kids are all on a budget, but believe me when I say that CHEAP does not equal HEALTHY. Yes, it’s okay to buy the store brand to save some cash, but just because day-old Krispy Kremes are $.25 apiece does not mean that you should eat them for breakfast every day this week. Just because Walmart brand fruit punch is on sale for $1.79 a gallon does not mean you should buy that instead of 100% orange juice.

**Also of note…read labels before you switch to the store brand. Sometimes the store brands are cheaper because they are full of fillers and preservatives and trans fats and high fructose corn syrup (more on the HFCS controversy later).

Capri Sun = NOT 100% juice, therefore, NOT a substitute for real juice.

This drink is 100% sugar. 16 g of sugar = 64 calories, so really, the company decided to round down to 60 calories per pouch. While we’re at it, do you see the ingredient list? It lists High Fructose Corn Syrup second to only water.

To sum it all up, healthy eating requires some forethought and prep. You can have the best intentions of eating healthy, but if you don’t plan for it, you’re left choosing the easy option which, more often than not, is the unhealthy option. Ramen noodles does not make for a nutritious dinner.

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