Feeding Your University Experience
The post-secondary experience can be quite tricky at times. Between studying hard, partying with friends and staying connected to your “old” life, it is about finding a balance in learning to cope with these new academic and lifestyle challenges.
In the midst of these changes, it can seem quite difficult to maintain a healthy diet, which is crucial for your success. However, it does not have to be that way. With a bit of careful planning and the right mindset, it is completely possible to eat healthy AND have an awesome university experience.
Focus on eating WELL, not perfect
Most students living in residence are required to purchase a meal plan which they are obligated to finish by the end of the school year. As a result, many students have the impression that there are very few healthy options to choose from and students may feel too busy to cook for themselves in the residence kitchens. Living off-campus, students face similar issues, but instead they may rely on take-out, fast food restaurants, and pre-cooked/frozen meals.
The key to eating well, whether you are on-campus or off-campus, is to make healthy choices at least 80% of the time, while leaving the 20% window for other choices. Remember that a healthy and balanced diet will help you regain your energy throughout the day and may help with motivation and mood. Here are some tips on how to choose healthy 80% of the time:
- Be knowledgeable about the healthy options on the menus such as grilled chicken, cooked vegetables, and the salad bar. Try to choose a balanced diet, considering options with the four basic food groups: grains, fruits/vegetables, dairy, and meats and alternatives.
- Ask the Hospitality Services staff at the various food outlets on campus for dismantled food such as grilled chicken breast instead of the whole sandwich or meatballs without the spaghetti.
- Drink tea or water instead of coffee and soft drinks; the benefits of drinking a sufficient amount of water every day are numerous.
- Carry healthy snacks for study breaks such as trail-mix, fruit and yogurt instead of heading to the vending machine.
Pause and Listen
You are probably familiar with the incidence of ‘disappearing food’ when you try to multitask while eating. You tell yourself “just one more bite/piece” which ultimately traps you into a cycle of overeating and may leave you feeling too full and not satisfied. The simple solution to this common issue to be mindful as you eat. This means paying attention to your own experience of eating and drinking, without comparing yourself to anyone else. It involves making time for meals, even with a busy schedule, because this allows you to fully experience your food – its colours, smell, textures and the changes it brings to your mind and body. More importantly, it allows you to listen to your body so you can stop eating when you are satisfied.
Avoid the comparisons
Making healthy food choices and mindful eating are just two pieces of the puzzle. Your own body image can also influence how and what you choose to eat. A healthy body weight means something different for everyone; it’s the weight that the body naturally settles into when maintaining a healthy and balanced diet with appropriate amount of rest and exercise. It cannot be determined by a number on a chart, rather it should be a natural part of your everyday life. Be proud of who you are and simply focus on eating well and feeling good!