by Associate Clinician Kate Amato

I remember the feeling of touring colleges, looking for all the pros and cons of campus life. What were the classrooms like? Do I like the dorm rooms? Are there fun activity/hang out areas? Sadly, I never thought to really hone in on the one thing that should have fueled me through my four years: the cafeteria. You have heard of the “Freshman 15?” Yeah, this girl gained the Freshman 30, with 10 additional pounds following the beginning of my sophomore year. I made so many unhealthy decisions when it came to food. I didn’t see it as fuel. I saw it as a taste; I saw it as a social event; I saw it as a way to suppress my feelings. Sometimes, I wish I could go back and meet my 18-year-old self and yell at her for eating raw cookie dough and drinking blueberry coffee with fat-free creamer at 11:30 at night…but I can’t. And honestly, I don’t know if I would have appreciated the tip back then. Now, though, I want to scream from the roof tops what NOT to do when it comes to college food! I hope the mistakes I made can help to create guidelines for others on what to do, or what to not do. 😉 Here are a few healthful, helpful tips to help make college life a little healthier!

Take advantage of the salad bar!
The salad bar can be your friend! It may seem like the boring choice in the moment, but take it from someone who didn’t visit the land of fruits and veggies very often…it is a great option. Channel you inner creativity and have fun with what you are picking. If the produce at the bar isn’t looking appealing, see what the options are at the hot bar. Can you mix some of the cooked veggie choices with your greens? Is there a good protein to add on top? Can you add quinoa or brown rice? Look around the cafeteria – foods, bars, and choices can be mixed and matched. Also, don’t be afraid to bring a “dorm room mixed dressing” with you. Grab some healthy olive oil, flavored balsamic vinegar, and yummy seasonings to stir up a mixture you want to put on your salad or meal. Your meals should not be bland, but don’t compromise your healthy salad with an unhealthy dressing or topping. Remember, what you put in your body will fuel you through the long and stressful days.

Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day!
Start your day with nourishment, even if that means you need to get up a little earlier to hit the cafeteria before your 8am class. You want to start your day with a good protein and good fat; this is where your long-sustaining morning energy will come from. Some great morning options are eggs, Greek yogurt, or smoothies. If your school doesn’t have smoothies, consider getting a magic bullet, which is easily storable in your dorm room and can whip up something yummy in minutes.

Avoid, avoid, avoid SUGAR!!!
You want to and need to be on your A-game during those busy days. You aren’t looking for a quick spike and a quick drop when it comes to energy and attention. All you are doing is sending false signals of energy to your body. Sugar isn’t just chocolate and candy, friends. It can hide. Watch your intake of sugary coffee drinks and sodas, and please, please, please avoid energy drinks!! Remember, your adrenals are compromised every time you consume sugar. The adrenals are a huge part of the energy triad and how your body adapts to stress, so protecting them is essential for your health and quality of function.

Processed carbs are NOT your friend.
Remember the energy crashes we discussed in the previous point? The same concept applies with grains. Processed carbohydrates will turn to sugar in your body! Not only that, but note that your immune system is rooted in your gut. If you are fueling your body with sugar or processed grains, you are adding stress to and compromising your digestive system. In compromising digestion, you are lowering your immune function. When your digestive system is compromised, you are left more susceptible to illness. No one wants to be sick, especially around test and mid-term time!

Good fats ARE your friend.
Good fats are essential to your daily intake, both for digestive support and for brain health. Avocado, butter, olive oil, nuts, and coconut oil are all great sources of fat. Be sure to get in several different forms of fat each day!

Snack away!
Don’t be afraid to carry snacks with you. Fruit, veggies, nuts, and seeds are all great options to snack on in between classes. You want to be mindful to keep that blood sugar up, as that helps with energy and concentration. Also, snacking in between meals can help keep you from going crazy with bad choices when meal time comes around.

Drink Water!
Water is essential – ALWAYS. In college, water can be an easy thing to forget about. Remember that dehydration can cause fatigue, constipation, digestive distress, compromised immune system, headaches, among other not-so-pleasant symptoms. You need to stay hydrated!!

Kate Amato, NTP
Kate is an Associate Clinician at the Well of Life Center for Natural Health. The Well of Life Center is a holistic wellness center that specializes in nutrition, chiropractic, massage services, and more. Celebrating their 11th year in business, the Well of Life Center has locations in Doylestown and Bethlehem, PA. For more information, please visit welloflifecenter.com.