Eating Real Food: College Tips

Now that I'm back at school, it is definitely much more difficult to eat right. Our cafeteria offers a salad bar and steamed vegetables everyday, but other than that the options pretty much are all meat, white pasta or white rice, white flour pizza, and a sandwich section that offers processed bread (generic wheat bread, white bread, Arnold Sandwich Thins). All of last year I would live off of sandwich thins, bananas, deli turkey, and salad. But ever since this 30 day challenge this summer I just can't really eat that anymore without feeling guilty. (See other posts) As you can tell, I really wish there were more options, especially since this year I am not allowing myself to eat that mystery deli meat anymore. I know many people around the country are having the same difficult search for healthy food on the go as I am. Thus, I have developed the following rules of thumb, and I think it has helped me cope with the fact that I cannot have access to an array of all-natural, organic, local, unprocessed, real food all the time. 1. Stay away from mystery meat...[ I know this is very difficult for those non-vegetarian, non-flexitarians out there, but if you want to be sure that you are not supporting an industry where 60 billion animals die every year (that's 10 animals per person on the planet) *and that is estimated to become 120 billion by 2050* than it may be worth your discretion]. If you would rather, ask your cafeteria cook where they get their meat, make a rule to eat one serving or less per day, etc... All of these tricks will enhance your health and help start a revolution. If your meat is living in a factory its whole life, getting diseases and being injected with antibiotics and hormones, you probably don't want that in your body, right?!

2. Choose simple vegetables. By simple I mean look for raw vegetables at the salad bar, or steamed vegetables that don't have sauce on them. That way you can be sure there aren't traces of MSG, unneccessary added salt in general, and sugar that really does nothing for your health. You can spice up those vegetables with some balsamic vinegar and olive oil if you want, or even some butter for flavor, and that way you know what you'll know what you're adding.

3. Make salad the biggest part of your plate. You've heard it over and over again, but it takes your body 20 minutes to realize that you are satisfied after eating. If you load up on salad, which takes a while to chomp down on, you're more likely to eat fewer calories and you're also less likely to crave simple carbohydrates that can be detrimental to your health. Try making half of your plate salad, with a simple balasamic vinegar and olive oil, some beans and legumes from your salad bar, carrots, or whatever type vegetables you'd like. I actually like adding steamed vegetables on top of my salads at school to give a balanced texture.

4. Make water your drink of choice. If you don't already drink water regularly, you can be sure that if you start switching that regular soda, orange juice, sports drink, fruity juice, etc, that you will see unbelievable results. Americans in general consume a lot of calories, but many of those calories are hidden in the drinks they choose regularly. Even milk can add unnecessary sugar to your diet (LAUSD recently banned chocolate milk from schools because of the high sugar content). Water is refreshing, zero calories, vital to your health, boosts your metabolism, cleanses your body, and if you want added flavor it's as simple as adding a slice of lemon, cucumber, or even some fresh berries to it!

Take your weight in lbs, divide that number in half, and that's the number in ounces you'll need to drink everyday to be adequately hydrated! If you weigh 120 lbs for example, you'll need to drink 60 ounces of water everyday to be hydrated.

tips: bring a reusable water bottle with you. Ever heard of a Bubba keg? They are great, they sell them in 54 ounce jugs, 32 ounce jugs, and various other sizes so you don't have to worry about counting your ounces all the time. Camelbak bottles are easy to carry in your backpack, etc etc.

5. Load up on beans and whole grains. These provide you with great sources of protein and will definitely help you stay full longer. Remember, while that box of Lucky Charms claims to have whole grains in it, it is not considered a real food. With all of those added chemicals, preservatives, artificial colors flavors, and added sugars it's really just a joke. I actually consider it a dessert. If you're shooting for cereal and they don't have anything but General Mills, go for the regular Cheerios. If you prefer, you can even add honey and fruit to it and eat that on top of some greek yogurt. Beans are so great for you because they provide you with fiber and vital nutrients that can really keep you focused on your school work. They usually don't have any hidden sugar (usually but you could also check with your cafeteria cook to be sure they don't boil the beans in sugared water), and will help you to sustain your energy throughout the day.

6. Stay away from ice cream. I don't know what it is, but last year the number one fault my friends and I made in the cafeteria was ice cream. They have Turkey Hill at my school and Edy's softserve as well as oreo, heath bar, and sprinkle toppings. After a while it becomes a routine to eat ice cream after every dinner, and sometimes even lunch. You really can get addicted. Just keep away from it in general, it's not even good quality-- it doesn't even taste that great-- and it's not worth the sugar low you get afterwords! Instead, be like my smart healthy cross country friend, Hillary, who would sit there with her apple and peanut butter while the rest of us were consuming an unnecessary amount of added sugar and preservatives. 60 calories for one apple + maybe 100 cals for a tablespoon of peanut butter-- that's a solid real food replacement right there! Make sure your peanut butter doesn't have extra sugar and hydrogenated oils though.

7. Carry almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, and/or other seeds and healthy nuts with you in your backpack. When you're hungry and you turn to a protein source instead of a carbohydrate you're more likely to stop when you are actually satisfied. Ever go hungry for a couple hours only to turn to ice cream or chocolate as your first method of nourishment? I bet you over compensated and overate!

8. Fruit. Most cafeterias provide a fresh fruit stand, that usually includes apples, bananas, and oranges. Stock up on these and save them for later. While some cafeterias technically don't let you bring food out of them (like mine), they will never know if you put that apple or banana in your backpack for later! You pay enough to go to school as it is, you deserve to have some extra fruit on hand. Luckily we also have some apple trees on campus, so sometimes my friends and I will stop by and get one of our taller friends to reach us a delicious looking one!

9. Be a social eater. Make time to spend time with your friends over a meal. In college especially it is very easy to become anti-social if you are staying in your room all the time. Go out, make friends, sit with a new person everyday. You'll be eating less calories and starting a routine before you know it.

10. Have only real-food healthy snacks in your room, stay away from snacks that you're overly crazy about, like chocolate, ice cream, etc. If you know that you have those in your room you won't be able to stay away! Keep tuna, nuts, seeds, apples, carrots, unsweetened dark chocolate, oatmeal, almond butter, greek yogurt, low sodium tomato soup, Go Lean cereal, etc on hand. These are all very nutritious and if you're unable to go to the cafeteria they can really come in handy. Stay away from gatorade, cookies, chips, soda, ice cream, and overly processed food that claims to have nutritional benefits like: Nutrigrain bars, Special K bars, organic junk food in general.  All that you'll gain is a bigger waistline, a heightened blood glucose level, and a headache.

11. Breakfast. Probably the number one meal you will be eating without people is breakfast. Most of your friends will have early classes and it's hard to find a person who will want to wake up early if they don't have class. My go-to breakfast is oatmeal. It is so good for you, easy to make, and versatile! Recently, the following has been my go-to oatmeal recipe:

Honey Flaxseed Oatmeal by Nutrishus

3/4 cup whole grain oats

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 cup water

2 1/2 tsp whole flaxseeds (you can get from your health food store.. they need to be refrigerated after opening--I love TJ's golden flax)

1 tbs honey

Simply put the sea salt, oats, water, and cinnamon in a microwaveable bowl for 2 1/2 minutes. Add the flax seed and honey and voila! A 3 minute, satisfying, delicious breakfast on the go!

If you have a little bit more time, I recommend taking an apple (I've been eating macintosh recently), and slicing it thin and adding it to your oatmeal. They get warm so quickly it's like eating an apple crumble for breakfast!

What's good about this recipe? Everything! Oats Whole grains, fiber, iron, protein, lowfat, cholesterol free

cinnamon: regulates blood sugar

flax seeds: excellent source of Omega 3 fatty acids which are incredible for your heart, protein, fiber, delicious texture and nutty flavor

honey: natural sweetener that won't spike your blood sugar levels

Bonne santé et bonne appétit!