Tips on Being a Healthy and Strong Individual

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by Alicia Williams

In general, most women know how hard it is to eat healthily. We love chocolate and salty foods, especially when we’re depressed or bored. Most women know how to eat well; it is just having the confidence and motivation to do so. An article from Medical News Today, Freshman girls know how to eat healthy but need to develop strategies to use in difficult situations talks about women in college understanding what healthy eating involves, but not having the confidence to follow through. When it comes to combining fun and with the demands of a busy schedule, it’s sometimes hard to make healthy decisions. We’ve all been there, when we’re studying and don’t have time to make something healthy to eat, so we grab a bag of chips. And then there’s the weekend struggle, where going out with friends in the evenings and drinking alcohol sounds so much better than staying in. And it’s all fine, in moderation.

The article above references a study of 286 female college students and the effects of their decisions when it comes to healthy eating. The negative effects of “social pressure” were the same for normal weight and overweight women. Both groups are just as likely to make the same decisions in these situations. Most young women face the same kinds of challenges when leaving home for the first time, like trying to discover the person they want to be, figuring out how to be independent, and not having parents there to tell them what to do.  The article also mentions how most women don’t get enough calcium in their daily diets. “Women optimize bone mass when they’re about 18 years old so we’re talking about an important time for them to be consuming calcium,” says Karen Chapman-Novakofski, a U of I Professor of Nutrition. College women don’t seem to have a hard time opting for low-fat meals, but don’t realize that they also need more calcium in their diets to help them stay healthy.

As a first-year student, I have experienced similar issues. I have always been a pretty healthy eater, and still consider myself as one, but it does get more difficult when you’re at a party and trying to make the “healthy choice,” or when you have had a long day of studying and come down for a midnight snack because you justify to yourself that you deserve that bag of chips for studying so hard. Sometimes I think to myself, “Well, if I go to the gym and work hard there, I can let my eating habits slide to fit college life.” But being healthy isn’t just about choosing to eat healthily or exercising; it’s doing both, a joint effort, to be the healthiest you can be. Going out with your friends or enjoying chips or brownie every once in a while isn’t going to affect you; it’s when you’re going out twice a week and making unhealthy eating choices time and time again, and only making it to the gym once a week, when it starts to become a problem. Limit yourself to one cheat day a week, and set goals for when you exercise to help keep you motivated.

Be confident in yourself, and know that you can be healthy and still enjoy the college life. You can have fun and say no to drinking, say no to eating because of stress or boredom, and to late-night snacking. By working together, we can encourage each other to make the healthy choices we know we should be making. The healthy habits you adopt now only benefit you later in life.

Here are some simple and effortless ideas for making healthy eating choices provided by JDRF:

1.    Pack veggies or fruit as a snack. Choose healthier snack items like granola bars, pretzels, and nuts that are in smaller packages for those on-the-go moments.

2.    Don’t “go to lunch” everyday. We like to incorporate time with friends by going out to lunch, dinner, or coffee. Not only does this contribute to weight gain, but also puts a dent in your wallet. Find other things to do when you meet up with your friends.

3.    Coffee isn’t a college student’s best friend as much as we think it is. It’s hard to resist when you’re doing homework late at night. and you need something to keep you going. Instead of relying on caffeine and other pick-me-ups, we should be focusing on fueling our bodies with lean meats, fruits, vegetables, milk, water, or low-fat yogurt.

4.    Try to consume most of your calories before 7:00 pm. The human body starts to shut down after a certain hour of the day. and that means the digestive tract isn’t working as fast, causing nutrients to be stored as fat instead of being processed by our digestive system. Just because everyone else is eating, doesn’t mean you have to.

5.    Make a schedule of times for meals

6.    Make time for exercise. Although studying is important, so is exercise. Set aside an hour just for going to the gym or going on a run.

7.    Try to stay away from white bread. Whole grain is a much healthier option because whole grain contains all parts of the grain kernel, unlike white bread, which has had the fiber-dense bran and nutrient-rich germ processed out.

8.    Get creative. When eating the college student’s favorite food, Top Ramen, add some vegetables, lean meats or tofu and drain out some of the broth to remove excess sodium.

9.    Stay balanced. When you’re shopping with your friends and you stop to eat, stay away from fatty burger and fries, and stick with a salad, or a chicken sandwich with no mayo.

10.  When in doubt, ask. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your doctor or a nutritionist for more tips on eating the right kinds of foods.

Eating healthily and exercising isn’t always easy, but just remember that there are lots of resources to help you get started. Our campus has a registered dietitian available for individual consultations and meal planning, and best of all, her services are free! Marissa Rudley is here to help UI students reach their healthiest potential with good nutrition.

Lastly, find a friend who’s willing to join forces with you on your healthy eating journey! The best thing we can do for each other is encourage one another to help us reach our goals to be healthy and strong individuals.

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