As college students, we are constantly making lifestyle choices, from our circle of friends to our extracurricular activities.
Our biggest decisions are affecting our physical and mental health, and the fundamental determinant of our overall well-being is in the food we eat. Our basic biology classes drive the idea of food as our source of energy, and studies have demonstrated the impact various eating habits have on our development.
Even beginning at a young age, we learn about the food pyramid and portion sizes, but most of us had our parents deciding what we will eat – our primary influences on our later eating habits.
With growth comes autonomy and change, and we begin to indulge on whatever pleases our taste buds. For some, exploring one’s palette is exhilarating as they peruse the many combinations of flavors, textures, and styles of cooking; others are less comfortable venturing into the unfamiliar and stick to their preferences. Eating what you like is a blessing, but to exclude what you have not tried because you think you will not like it is as restricting as judging a book by its cover, and it will limit your variety.
Why does this matter? Because we are at the age where we develop our life-long habits, and eating healthy is crucial to maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle; learning how to take care of yourself now is valuable for when you are living independently. It is convenient to live in the dorms with a meal plan, but once you move off campus, you have to find ways to feed yourself. The struggle turns real when you become dependent on your meal plan routine of pizza and fries, and carry this habit off campus by ordering take out every night; the struggle is the impact these in nutritious foods have on our bodies for all they offer us is a free trip to the feared “freshmen fifteen.”
We must be conscientious we know the health benefits associated with consumption of fruits, vegetables, and select breads and meats, so we need to make use of our nutritional lessons and invest in ourselves. Our campus dining facilities offer a vast selection of options, including gluten-free, therefore complaining about how “there is nothing to eat” is wasteful and a clear indication it is time expand your palette. The main focus is progress, not perfection – aim to improve your eating habits, but avoid being too harsh if you break your diet.
Self-control is an important trait to build, and restructuring your dining habits can test your boundaries. One can begin by restricting unhealthy meals to one meal per day, and substitute them for a salad or sandwich. Fruits, vegetables, and protein bars can curb your snack cravings, while desserts should be limited to once or twice a week. For home cooking, it is necessary you purchase quality ingredients instead of convenient snacks.
In addition, your relatives have been cooking for years, so ask them how to make your favorite meal and other simple recipes. As you modify your routines, take notice of each meal’s effects on your body and mind, and see the difference healthy eating can have on your wellbeing.