Words by Kristina Lauria
The life of a typical student rarely revolves around what’s healthy: staying up into the early morning hours, waking up just in time to make it to your 8:00am class, pulling all-night cram sessions for that exam tomorrow, and partying Thursday evening through Sunday morning aren’t usually the recommended activities for a sound mind and body. Along with this lifestyle comes a laissez faire attitude towards food—an “I’ll take what I can get for the cheapest I can find it” outlook. Unfortunately, this stance is not terribly conducive to a nutritious diet, and consequently the average college student isn’t getting the nutrients he or she needs most.
Enter the average university dining hall. While students here at Boston University are rather fortunate to have such variety in the food department, the truth still remains that it is often easier to go for the high-calorie, high-carbohydrate, high-sugar items if they’re sitting right in front of you. Take a moment and consider the staples of every cafeteria—pizza, burgers, and the ever-reliable dessert table. Even though these certainly aren’t our only choices, they are both delicious andtempting. So on any given night you’re likely to see students head towards these tried and true basics.
The secret is realizing that it’s just as easy to find the healthier choices if you know where to look. As most of you probably know by now, our dining halls have select stations dedicated to healthy, balanced meals: Sargent Choice. Created in partnership with Sargent College, these dishes are well balanced and properly portioned--two vital aspects to a healthy meal. Honestly speaking here–student to student–I will admit that the Sargent Choice meals can be a little bit on the bland side, but there's an easy trick around that. I often get these meals and then add in my own mix-ins from the salad bar or ask the people at the sandwich station for some of their toppings. Here's where your creativity has to come into play. Think of what you (or your mom) might put together at home.
A college student myself, I’ve found that my best line of defense against some of these oh-so-good but oh-so-bad-for-you foods is a well-equipped mind. If I know what my body needs and most importantly, where I can get it, then I have a better chance of finding something that’s both satisfying and nutritious. After some research I’ve devised a list of the 6 key vitamins and minerals our young bodies (and brains) need and several easy to find, low-cost sources.
Regulates sleep, appetite, and mood
Improves alertness and fights fatigue
Necessary for proper brain function
Strengthens bones, teeth, and muscles
Helps maintain blood pressure
Boosts energy, and prevents anemia
- Baked sweet potatoes
- Skinless chicken breast
- Plain yogurt
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Sirloin beef
- Peanut butter
- Egg yolks
- Skim milk
- Lean steak
Now that you have the necessary tools, the best approach is to find a way to incorporate these foods into your daily life. Make them a part of the routine. Do not, however, convince yourself that this is a list of must-eat foods that, if even slightly altered, will cause you to be unhealthy and eventually obese. It is more than okay to partake in the occasional slice of pizza (or two) followed by one (or two) of your favorite cookies. We all have our weaknesses, and only once we realize them and quit forbidding ourselves from enjoying their deliciousness can we be truly successful in a healthful diet.
DISCLAIMER: I am not, nor do I claim to be, a registered dietician or nutritionist. The advice in this article is based purely on research and experience, but does not come from someone with professional experience.