Most people think that if you wish to have a healthy diet, you must deal with being hungry; healthy food can’t possibly keep you full, can it? Faced with what appears to be an “either-or” choice, college students often choose to stick with what they are comfortable with: an unbalanced diet. It is hard for many people to realize that eating healthy does not mean cutting out all your favorite foods; it simply means getting creative. If you are cooking for yourself and struggling to buy the proper foods, these tips are for you.
College can becoming monotonous– the same schedule, day after day, and tests week after week. Creating healthy, delicious meals can help add some variety to your daily obligations. In order to create meals you enjoy, you must listen to your body: what upsets your stomach? What foods make you feel lethargic? Many people do not realize how much what they eat affects their mood; you will be surprised at how much better you feel if you listen to your body! It is helpful to keep a food log in order to keep track of what you eat and how you react to it. Through this process, I learned that I should avoid gluten and dairy. In fact, most of the population has a sensitivity to dairy; it is hard to digest and provides few health benefits.
You must stay focused at the supermarket: stay out of the isles that are too tempting. Start off in the produce section and pick out the vegetables you like the most. No one is forcing you to eat anything; pick only what you enjoy! I always buy spinach because it is delicious, healthy, and can be added to almost every meal. Next, pick out some fruits; they are the perfect snack and the perfect alternative to a high-calorie dessert.
Many college students fail to pick out the proper grains. Processed gluten has few health benefits and does not keep you full for long. Instead, look for foods with a low glycemic index; these grains keep you full for longer. This does not mean you have to compromise on taste– it is all about how you prepare your food. The better you are at cooking, the less you have to worry about finding that perfect balance between delicious and healthy. I usually buy rice products like basmati rice or rice noodles.
Next, pick your protein. It is important to be aware of what happens to your food before it reaches the grocery store; many animals are raised in horrible conditions and are not fed a natural diet. If this upsets you, I recommend becoming a vegetarian or pescatarian. Apart from the occasional chicken or turkey, I eat only fish. No matter your diet, it is important to eat protein. I recommend fish, beans, yogurt, and eggs; these foods keep you full for a long time.
Everyone loves snacks. Just because you want to eat healthy, doesn’t mean you have to cut out snacks. Moderation is key; only buy one of your favorite snacks. Give yourself some freedom– if you are too strict with yourself, you won’t succeed. Be smart about what snack you choose. I recommend dark chocolate, because it is both delicious and does not contain artificial ingredients. Avoid buying sugary drinks. Many people don’t realize how dangerous it is to buy soda; drinking your calories tricks you into thinking you are not being unhealthy. In addition, pick out a healthier snack– something you can eat a lot of without feeling too guilty or getting a stomach ache. I love rice crisps or Snapea crisps; they come in a lot of different flavors and are relatively light snacks. Don’t avoid the snacks that “sound healthy.” Just because something is healthy, doesn’t mean it’s gross!
Before you leave the store, make sure you have seasoning; something this simple can elevate your meals. I make sure to always have salt, pepper, and garlic. On top of those essentials, I also buy plenty of olive oil and teriyaki sauce. Olive oil is a healthy alternative to butter or canola oil; it is a monounsaturated fatty acid, not a saturated or trans fat. These little details are what make all the difference–always check the ingredients before you buy something!
Many people give up on a healthy diet because they think it requires too much effort or takes up too much time. Once you create a system, eating healthy is easy. After you have all your ingredients, check out before you get tempted to buy more than you have to! Now the challenge is to think about what your favorite meals are; there is always a way to create a healthy version of a meal. For example, if you like french fries, make your own– buy some potatoes, cut them into fries, cover them with olive oil and a little salt, and bake them! This is much healthier than the pre-made french fries you buy at McDonald’s.
Though eating healthy inevitably takes more time than buying pre-made food, it does not have to be complicated. When you have a break, start cooking. I recommend cooking big meals so that you will have leftovers. I sometimes cook a meal that lasts for two or three days, which allows me to eat quickly on the days when I am the most busy. The stigma against leftovers is not true; they can be delicious! I have found that the most successful meals are stir-frys; simply choose a protein, a vegetable, and a grain. Add garlic and teriyaki sauce to the pan and you’re ready to go.
I believe that the main reason college students do not eat healthy is because they do not make their own food. Many college students don’t really know how to cook. People do not realize how easy and fun cooking can be. Not only does it allow you to see exactly what is going into your food, but it is also a great way to take a break from studying. When I feel overworked but know that I don’t have the time to take a real break, I choose to cook instead. While you are cooking, you have time to yourself; you can think through problems or you can turn off your racing mind and listen to music. Enjoy cooking healthy–your mind and your body will thank you!