Monday, March 31, 2008

Healthy Eating for College Students

By Hong Kong Tran

Among today’s rapidly escalating problems, such as poverty, hunger, global warming and animal extinction, that of obesity is becoming more prominent and worthy of attention. Not surprised?

Well, you should be surprised to learn just how high and fast the obesity rate will continue to rise. This means that the chances of you, your children and your grandchildren being among that growing number will only increase, putting many at risk for high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, respiratory problems and cancer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection, the prevalence of obesity rose from 15 percent in 1976 to almost 33 percent in 2004. For those who are 12 to 19 years old, it increased to 12.4 percent from 5 percent. These numbers will continue to grow, unless there is some control on an individual level.

As college students, it is understandable that we have a hard time staying healthy with the infamous foods we eat. With the recent opening of the student center, the food courts have been drawing in students for breakfast, lunch and dinner. This convenience increases the likelihood that students will eat out, instead of making their own meals. However, this can easily change.

Listed below are a few tips that can help you form a healthier diet.

1.) Eat breakfast. For those who do not eat breakfast, start! Especially on a college campus, breakfast helps to jumpstart your day in preparation for classes, studying, playing sports, etc. Coffee and donuts do not count. Get in the habit of making a bowl of whole-grain cereal or oatmeal every morning. Add a glass of orange juice or milk and maybe some fruit.

No time? Make time. You are taking care of your body for today and tomorrow, so waking up 10 or 15 minutes earlier to prepare a healthy meal is more than worth it.

Think of how much money you will save now if you buy a box of cereal and a carton of juice that will last you a week. Also, think about how much money you will save later from paying visits to the doctor for all of those health problems you accumulated from a lack of breakfast.

2.) Drink lots and lots and lots of water. Ditch the soda and other sugar-loaded drinks and make water your new best friend forever. Eat with it, sleep with it, walk and run with it, read with it and drink (with) it! Water is really what does a body good.

3.) Don’t forget the vegetables. You are a college student—you should not have to be reminded to include vegetables in your diet. Remember the food pyramid from your wee-old days? Although you may have neglected it, the food pyramid will always remain informative and helpful.

There are many places on campus where you can get a healthy salad. Try to stay away from the processed salad dressings, many of which contain preservatives, artificial flavors and transitive fats. Olive oil, lemon juice and balsamic vinegar are all you need to make a healthy salad dressing.

4.) Fruits can be the next guilty pleasure and are such a great snack. They’re sweet in taste, but unlike chips, cookies and candy, they’re healthy. Make it a habit to pack an apple, orange or pear so you can munch on one in the no-food-allowed lecture halls.

5.) Don’t over-indulge yourself. This tip is especially for those living in the dorms (or who have a meal plan for the dining halls). Just because one card swipe will allow you to eat until you drop, it does not mean that you have to binge. Getting your money’s worth amounts to eating a healthy meal, not how much frozen yogurt you can stuff yourself with before leaving, or how many cookies and pastries you can sneak out.

6.) Food needs exercise. The two go hand-in-hand. They are like Mary-Kate and Ashley, Calvin and Hobbes, Pinky and the Brain, Britney Spears and paparazzi, or UC Irvine and Asians. Once you have regulated your eating habits, take your newfound determination to stay healthy and hit the gym.

The Anteater Recreation Center offers aerobics classes, many of which are free of charge. There is no need to visit the gym every day, but a workout at least three days a week will make you physically and mentally healthier. Healthy eating is an excellent start, but you should complete your diet with exercise.

When asked how she stays healthy in college, second-year engineering major Jennie Lee responded, “I work out, I don’t drink soda, I carry a bottle of water to class, I play badminton and I sleep at 4 a.m. and wake up at 7 a.m.” The last part is exactly what you should not do.

7.) Sleep earlier. As college students, we are more to be likely sleep-deprived, thanks to studying, homework, partying and procrastination. The trick is time-management. Set a bedtime and make it your goal for the day to be in bed by that time. Try to get at least six or seven hours of sleep a night, if not more. You will feel much more rejuvenated during class.

The point is not to keep away from the unhealthy, instant dinners and the greasy food court food forever, but to discipline yourself to eat them in moderation. You will thank yourself years later for making simple, healthy changes to your diet now.

If you actually think about it, resistance against healthy foods is not as hard to break as you might think. Get a good cookbook and learn how to cook. The worst you can do to your food is burn it. Take care of your body, as no one else will. The first step is to take responsibility and admit that your diet can improve.

The New University
University of California, Irvine
Week of March 31, 2008

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