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Monday, August 3, 2015

Heading Off to College with Health in Mind

By Mary Schroeder, Extension Educator — Health and Nutrition

During the month of August, many young adults venture off to tech school or college for the first time. It is a time filled with a lot of excitement and a lot of “firsts.” For many young adults, this is the first time they are completely in charge of their health. Making wise food choices and staying physically active is important to help young adults do well in their studies and be at their best physically, socially, and emotionally.

Here are a few simple ideas to get students off on a healthy start.

Smart Eating

  • Use a smaller plate. Use smaller plates to help with portion control. By avoiding oversized bowls, glasses, plates, and mugs, you’re better able to avoid oversized portions and therefore avoid excess calories. This is a great trick for the all-you-can-eat dining hall! Remember, you can always go back if you are still hungry.
  • Eat some foods less often. Cut back on foods high in solid fats, added sugars, and salt. They include cakes, cookies, ice cream, candies, sweetened drinks, pizza, chips, and fatty meats like ribs, sausages, bacon, and hot dogs. Consider these foods occasional treats, not everyday foods, and when you do eat them, be mindful of your portions.
  • Eat some foods more often. Choose foods with more nutrients more often, like vegetables and fruits. They provide more nutrients, relative to the calories they provide, than fatty and sugary foods. You can’t go wrong if you make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Head to class prepared. Remember to pack healthy snacks when you head to class. This will help you avoid vending machine pitfalls.
  • Drink water. Soda, energy drinks, sweetened coffee drinks, and sports drinks are a major source of added sugar and calories in American diets. Carry a water bottle with you throughout the day, and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink water.

Smart Moving

  • Do stretches or exercises such as yoga or jumping jacks while watching television.
  • Use household items, such as soup cans, to do bicep curls during your study breaks.
  • In between classes, take a brisk 10-minute walk or ride a bike around campus.
  • Join an intramural team, club team, or gardening group.
  • Sign up for a class at your campus fitness center or gym — or just use the facilities to exercise.
  • Play games like basketball, soccer, kickball, or softball with your friends on the weekend.
For more ideas on making healthy choices in college, check out these resources from MyPlate:

Source: Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. (2013.) USDA MyPlate on Campus Toolkit. Alexandria, VA: U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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