Revamping your eating habits for the better
Fall can be seen as a time for renewal of all kinds. In a flurry of fresh syllabi, autumn is a perfect season to start fresh in another way: with food.
As the harvesting season comes to an end and farmers markets start to look scarcer, the decline of fresh food can be discouraging for the student who wishes to maintain a healthful lifestyle. According to several local health professionals, however, there are dozens of ways to keep it up.
“At this time of year, a lot of students are falling into the pizza and ramen routine. The key is to come up with a healthier routine that is just as simple,” said Boulder-based nutrition counselor Seth Braun, who wrote the popular book “Healthy, Fast and Cheap: The Ultimate College Cookbook.”
According to Becky Staley, a diet technician at the CU General Clinical Research Center, the most important change is to cut out processed foods and load up on fresh, less-processed ones.
“Processed foods have too many calories, too much fat and too much sodium,” Staley said.
Yet between papers, midterm exams and a flourishing social life, finding time for healthy living can feel like a frivolous endeavor, especially when anything more than grabbing a bag of chips seems like effort.
Wild Oats Store Marketing Specialist and senior theater major Bree Holcombe says that people who plan out their eating are more prone to eat healthy, and as an added bonus, spend less.
“It’s helpful to make certain meal plans throughout the week. You don’t need to write it out, but just be aware of staple meals and staple snacks that you love,” Holcombe said.
This is much easier and less stressful, she added, than being rushed and having to eat fast food.
“Stress occurs in everyone’s life. You just have to know how to deal with it for your own body,” Holcombe said.
Changing one’s routine is not easy, particularly surrounding something as comforting and reassuring as food. Many students are likely to wonder where to begin.
“Go to the store or the Farmers Market, buy a handful of vegetables for the week, and cook up one vegetable each night,” Braun said.
This is an excellent way to add nutrients to ones diet in a simple and noninvasive way.
“Even if you’re still eating pizza or Ramen, add one vegetable,” Braun said.
Another wise tactic – although it will take a bit more time – is to keep a food journal, Holcombe advises. This way one can see which foods do what for the body.
“For example, you may notice that you did really well on an exam because you ate carrots and peanut butter beforehand, rather than a bag of potato chips,” Braun said.
Another setback to eating well during the semester lies in food packaging; a bag of chips is certainly easier to tote around campus than said carrots and peanut butter.
“Look for small ready-to-eat packages of vegetables that are available at many food markets,” Staley said.
Indeed, a trip to almost any grocery store will confirm the existence of one-serving sized packages that contain healthful snacks. And contrary to popular belief, these won’t set your wallet back much farther than those chips.
With the oh-so-popular organic and local foods movement, most grocery stores nowadays carry their own discounted version of these good-for-you items.
According to Braun, the best way to cut costs associated with food is to stop dining out.
“When you eat one meal out, you spend the same amount of money that you’d spend on an entire day’s worth of food prepared at home. The secret is to get into the groove of cooking for yourself,” Braun said.
It takes some getting used to, but preparing food at home is a win-win: it will lower food expenditures and it’s a great deal healthier.
As most students already know, eating well is only half of the equation.
“Exercise is the easiest thing to leave off the list as a student,” Holcombe said.
However, she emphasized that it’s the little ways one can work movement into his or her day that make a difference.
“Riding your bike instead of driving, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking further away in the parking lot or doing exercises in your chair during class are all ways to make exercise feasible in a student’s busy life,” Holcombe said.
These built-in workouts can make exercise seem less daunting and less of a chore.
For many, a healthy lifestyle is intimidating at first glance, and during the semester when class time and readings are all consuming, perhaps it can seem like a minor priority. However, with a few small tweaks and shifts, turning over a new leaf can be a refreshingly simple endeavor.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Lauren Duncan at Lauren.Duncan@Colorado.edu.