Wanna Be Healthy, Fit & Focused? Stock Up On These 13 Foods
This post provided by college nutritionist, author, and all around excellent source of healthful info, Melanie Jatsek.
It’s the start of the new school year. For some of you this will be your first time away from home and you may be feeling a little nervous about meeting your new roommate and dorm life in general. For others it’s like coming home again, only this time you are moving into your own apartment.
Let’s face it, there are many things in college you can’t control, but what you eat isn’t one of them! Because certain foods improve your focus and brain health (while others destroy it), your food choices will have an impact on your grades. What about the so called “Freshman Fifteen”? You don’t have to fall victim to it or poor eating habits if you play it smart from day one. In fact, your eating habits can actually improve in college (yes, I did just say that)!
Eating healthy doesn’t have to be hard if you keep it simple. All you really have to do is remember the 5 basics and build your meals and snacks around them: fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and meats/meat substitutes. Whether you are a first year college student and only have a tiny dorm room refrigerator (and an even tinier cupboard to store your food) or you are a returning student living in an apartment with a kitchen, here are the 13 foods you must stock up on to stay on track:
Dried fruit (plums, apricots, raisins, mangos)
Sure fresh and frozen fruits are always best, but if you don’t have the means to go grocery shopping on a regular basis, you need to be prepared and have shelf stable fruits on hand to snack on. If you are a freshman, chances are you will be eating most of your meals in a dining hall anyways, so it should be pretty easy to find fresh fruit. Just like fresh and frozen fruits, dried fruits are also rich in disease fighting antioxidants, but try to keep portion sizes in mind because they are higher in sugar and calories. A small handful is plenty!
Snack idea: 4 dried plums with a small handful of lightly salted peanuts
Breakfast idea: 1 chopped apple mixed in a bowl of cooked oatmeal (for extra fiber, leave the skin on the apple)
Low sodium V8 Juice
Baby carrots are ready to eat, fiber-rich and low in calories. If you are short on refrigerator space, individual cans of low sodium V8 Juice count as a vegetable serving too! They come in packs of 6 4-ounce cans and don’t require refrigeration.
Snack idea: 14 baby carrots with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter for dipping
Kashi cereal bars
The American Heart Association recommends 3 servings of whole grains every day for good health. Quaker Oatmeal is one of the quickest and most affordable whole grains you could stock in your cupboard. If you want to save money, forget the instant oatmeal in individual packets and go for the large 42 ounce cylinder instead. Even though it isn’t instant oatmeal, it can still be cooked in the microwave.
Kashi cereal bars are one of the most nutritious whole grain cereal bars on the market today. They make a perfect snack for in between classes. My personal favorite is the “Honey Almond Flax” bar.
Trisuit crackers are considered whole grain and make a great substitute for greasy potato chips when you are in the mood for something on the salty side, but with some nutritional value. They come in a variety of flavors too, from “Garden Herb” to “Fire-Roasted Tomato.”
Snack idea: 6 Triscuit crackers with 1 string cheese
Breakfast idea: Oatmeal with a handful of walnuts and a touch of brown sugar
Calcium is so important for your health. I’m sure you know it is essential for strong bones and teeth, but did you also know that it can help to ease the symptoms of PMS (premenstrual syndrome)? Really!
Just like with oatmeal, yogurt can be purchased in the larger containers to save money. Low fat yogurt is a balanced source of protein and carbohydrates. Be careful because they can be pretty high in sugar too, especially those with fruit on the bottom! Low fat Greek yogurt tends to be a little pricier but is also higher in protein than traditional yogurt.
Snack idea: 8 ounces of yogurt with a small handful of lightly salted peanuts mixed in (a deliciously salty and sweet combination!)
All three are easy to store, do not require refrigeration and are packed with nutrients. No need to worry about the fat and calorie content of peanut butter and nuts if you keep the portion sizes small: 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, a small handful of nuts. Studies have shown that people who eat a small portion of nuts every day have an easier time managing their weight. Why? Because they fill you up and curb your appetite!
If you like tuna fish, go for it! It is loaded with omega 3 fatty acids, which are important for your brain health. Fish really is brain food! Choose Low Sodium Light Tuna Fish by StarKist for the best nutritional buy. It comes in convenient, portion controlled packages of 3 3-ounce containers.
Snack idea: 6 Triscuit crackers topped with 3 ounces of tuna fish
Well there you have it – 13 cheap, quick and nutritious foods to have on hand at the start of the 2010 school year. Don’t wait until the pounds start packing on; be proactive and start building healthy habits now! Remember, you have 100% control over what you eat. Choose a balance of nutrient-rich foods everyday to stay healthy, fit and focused this year. You can do it!
Melanie Jatsek is a speaker, author and registered dietitian who teaches college students how to eat to look better, feel better, think better and stress less! Send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with her on her new Facebook page for college students: “The Healthy Campus Project”