Many kids leave for college this month. You may be wondering, how can they eat healthy when living in a dorm? Is it even possible? These are the questions I’ve pondered with my own kids. No matter what university they are attending, here are my guidelines to help college students EAT RIGHT:
Enjoy eating a variety of foods: choose from all five food groups; fruits & vegetables, whole grains, dairy, and protein.
Ask questions! It may be challenging in some schools to eat right if they don’t provide a good variety of foods. It may be necessary to ask for more whole grain foods choices, more fruit options at breakfast or lunch, or adding protein options to the salad bar like black beans, edamame, chickpeas and hard boiled eggs.
Think of eating the colors of the rainbow! Fruits and vegetables should make up half of your plate. A variety of different colored plant foods is preferred: dark green (think spinach, broccoli, asparagus), orange/yellow (sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, yellow squash), red (tomatoes, strawberries), and blue/purple (blueberries, beets). These color groups each contain a unique set of health-promoting nutrients.
Remember to eat protein at most meals: lean meats, poultry, beans, fish & eggs. Protein divided up throughout the day provides good satiety.
Include dairy foods (or calcium-containing substitutes)- 3 servings a day: milk, yogurt, cheese. Calcium is a life-long requirement!
Get whole grains daily - like brown rice, whole wheat bread, corn tortillas and oatmeal.
The fiber from whole grains is good for healthy guts.
Have sweets in moderation- soda and desserts are available at every meal but not a good practice for healthy eating. Sugar can quickly be a diet mainstay if reasonable restraint is lacking.
Try limiting added salt and salty foods like salted snacks and nuts. Also, try to limit fried foods- these are a source of unwanted fat and calories. Opt for baked, broiled, steamed or grilled foods instead of fried.
Let these EAT RIGHT guidelines be the framework for decisions made everyday. Be creative with your cafeteria's offerings (my oldest would get rice and beans from the hot food line to create a veggie-packed rice bowl with toppings from the salad bar). Take advantage of this unique opportunity by enjoying different ethnic or regional cuisines (my son enjoyed weekly sushi nights and soul food last year). Dine among the company of friends (there is always someone to eat with!). Dorm living is only a limited time in your life and can be a great start in making personal decisions for good health. Healthy eating IS possible in college! ENJOY!