Common Sense College Eating

The fall semester is upon us, which for many college students means back-to-campus food. Dining halls offer numerous selections with unlimited portions. Don’t fall victim to the all-you-can-eat opportunity. Follow these tips to help you make nutritious choices this school year.

Fill up Wisely: When filling your plate, follow the MyPlate guidelines: fill ½ your plate with fruits and veggies, ¼ with protein-rich foods, ¼ with whole grain, and—whether in a glass or on your plate—don’t forget nutrient-rich dairy foods. To ward off hunger, start with the salad bar first and fill up on a colorful tossed vegetable salad. Then select your main course. It is easier to make healthier selections when you have something nutritious in your stomach.

Beware of Beverages: Remember to fill your glass with nutrient rich cow’s milk at least twice a day. Cow’s milk contains nine essential nutrients, including protein, making it a perfect complement to a nutritious meal. Trendy milk alternatives like almond and coconut beverages do not contain the protein and nutrients found in cows’ milk. Also, reduce empty calorie options such as soda, lemonade and sports drinks.

Break for Breakfast: Dairy products make great choices for a quick, easy and affordable breakfast. While most college students would rather sleep than take time out to eat, it’s important to break that overnight fast and fuel your body. Grab a Greek yogurt or cheese stick with a piece of fruit or a glass of milk before you run out the door to class. This will also help control hunger at lunchtime and maintain focus throughout morning classes.

Know the Nutrition: College cafeterias across the country are offering a variety of healthy options and even display the calories and fat per serving of many of their offerings. Some dining halls are implementing a red, yellow and green stoplight approach to help students make nutritious selections at salad bars. The more you know about what is offered, the easier it is to make healthier choices.

Guest post by Denise Cochran, MMSc, RDN

Denise_CochranDenise Cochran, MMSc, RDN has been a dietitian for more than 30 years working in the areas of wellness, fitness, athletics, eating disorders and medical nutrition therapy. Cochran currently serves as campus dietitian for University Student Health Services and Wellness Resource Center at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA.