Chicken tenders. French fries. Taco Bell. Reese’s cups. Pizza. Diet Coke.
When I’m buying food at a dining hall or food court at school, I’m tempted by so many things, including the foods I named above. To me, it seems like the school tries to sell more of the unhealthy stuff than fresh fruits and veggies, sandwiches and other health foods. When I was getting a taco salad a few days ago, I noticed an advertisement posted for Oreo churros. Was there any mention of the roasted vegetables that you could get on your burrito? No. Anything posted about the vegetarian options at the Boars Head sandwich line? Again, no.
Eating well while away at school is extremely difficult. Often, the healthy stuff takes longer to make (unless you’re just eating pre-cut fruits and vegetables, which gets old quickly). It’s not advertised as loudly as the junk food is. The salads, fruits and sandwiches are often not high quality – they’re old or have been tossed around the refrigerator they’re kept in. They also cost three or four times more than chicken tenders or fries. When comparing dining hall prices to Walmart or Target prices, the fresh foods have extremely inflated prices. So what can we, as students, do to make sure we’re doing our bodies a favor while at school?
1. Ask for help.
I’m not ashamed to say that when choosing something to eat at a dining hall or food court on campus, I’ve asked the workers for help when choosing what to eat. I’ll ask what is the healthiest, of course, but I also ask about modifications that can be made to the food. Can I add veggies? Can I get rid of the extra slices of cheese (painful, I know)? Asking about the food you’re being sold can help you make better decisions for yourself.
2. Have your friends help.
There’s no better way to keep yourself accountable than to let someone know you’re trying to eat healthy. If you take your friend(s) with you to the dining hall, have them hold you responsible for choosing healthy options. Maybe instead of adding bacon and cheese to your baked potato, they’ll push you to only top it with butter.
3. Understand what you can get for your money.
At Ball State, our meal swipe for lunch and dinner is worth $8.20. That gets you a lot. However, when you’re trying to eat healthy, you might not get as much bang for your buck at the dining halls. Buying three candy bars, mozzarella sticks, pizza and a drink might add up to $8.20, but so does getting a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, grapes, water and a granola bar. You’ll be just as full, and you’ll feel a lot better eating the healthy stuff. It’s all about choosing the right things.
4. It’s okay to eat junk in moderation.
I don’t think that you should be eating a bag of Doritos every day, but who says you can’t eat chips once or twice a week? Eating healthy is all about moderation. If you know you’re going out to eat somewhere that doesn’t offer much in the way of nutritional value, just exercise a little extra that week, or skip your daily Starbucks latte.
5. Stock up on healthy foods.
Keep your mini fridge full of healthy foods, so you’re not tempted to buy junk on a whim. Apples, celery, carrots and other fruits and vegetables are easy to store and will keep you more full than empty carbs. Plus, since they’re conveniently located in your dorm room, you’ll be more likely to eat them.
6. Reach out to the campus nutritionist.
They’re there for a reason. College campuses often have experts on hand to help students who might have allergies or who simply want to eat better. They’ll be able to guide you to make healthful decisions, as well as point you to locations on campus that are healthier than others. They’ll also be able to answer specific questions about individual foods and diets.
7. Establish a routine.
Eat three meals a day (or several healthy, smaller meals if you prefer that). For breakfast, don’t go for the fatty hash browns and bacon. Choose oatmeal, fruit or nuts. Fruits and nuts help support brain health, meaning that you’ll be able to focus more clearly. For lunch, skip the fried stuff. Go for a soup and salad, or a light sandwich with a cup of soup. A good lunch will keep you fueled for the rest of the day. Finally, for dinner, get your protein for the day in. Choose fish, chicken or steak. Add veggies (stir-fried, roasted, fresh, it doesn’t matter) to make the meal complete.
These are some tips that have worked well for me. What do you do to ensure that you’re eating well on campus?