Saying No To the 3 a.m. Pizza: Dos and Don’ts for Healthy Eating as a Busy College Student

Knowing how easy it is to turn to unhealthy snacks while studying – or skip meals altogether – maintaining a healthy diet can be a major challenge for students. Yet these quick fixes and unhealthy food choices can have a negative impact on alertness, ability to focus and memory retention. So how can students try to transform their eating habits to improve brain power?

Here are six quick dos and don’ts for maintaining a healthy lifestyle as a busy college student, according to Jennifer Brown, registered dietitian and faculty associate with ASU’s School of Nutrition and Health Promotion.

1. DO eat mindfully.

  • Don’t thoughtlessly eat snacks while studying or binge-watching your television series of choice. Brown notes that eating mindfully means truly and consciously appreciating the food you eat while you eat it. Preparing a healthy snack in advance can make all the difference and help combat a trip to the vending machine!

2. DO try the popular superfood moringa.

  • The next superfood phenomenon, moringa has become increasingly popular in the food industry within the last several years due to its high concentration of Vitamin C, calcium, potassium and amino acids. “You can grind it up with the leaves as a powder and add it to a smoothie,” according to Brown.

3. DO consider the long-term implications of your current habits.

  • The average American diet is high in processed foods and saturated fats. “Even at a young age, eating this way could be laying down plaques in the arteries,” according to Brown. The way we eat now impacts our future heath, so students should be cognizant of their current eating and exercise habits to maximize their future health.

4. DON’T make yourself hangry.

  • “If you go on autopilot, you will start to feel tired and go past the point of feeling hungry,” according to Brown. “Recognize cues that indicate it has been way too long since you’ve eaten to avoid feeling ‘hangry’ – the popular fusion of ‘hungry’ and ‘angry.’” Set an alarm on your phone to remind you to grab some food – and probably a much-needed break.

5. DON’T avoid your body’s cues regarding caffeine intake.

  • Coffee is a staple part of many college students’ routines, but how much caffeine is too much? Brown suggests that an average of three cups a day is an acceptable level of caffeine for most people. However, tolerance varies due to a variety of factors including genetic makeup, and students must consider all sources of caffeine, including foods and beverages.

6. DON’T do what’s trendy if it doesn’t feel healthy to you.

  • There is always a new fad diet with plenty of restriction involved; however, these diets are not necessarily sustainable over time. Listen to your body, and know what feels healthy to you, according to Brown, to avoid developing unnecessary stress around eating.

Brown graduated with her master’s degree in human nutrition from ASU in 2013 and currently teaches for ASU Online.

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