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Barbara Burke

Good For You

By Barbara Burke

Wednesday, August 9, 2000

Dorm eating guide
for students

If you're a recent high school grad getting ready to go off to college, there are many exciting changes awaiting you. Settling into dorm life, making new friends, adjusting to the rigor of college courses, and getting involved in extracurricular activities will occupy much of your time.

With no parents around to tell you what, when, or how much to eat, your typical day may start (around noon) with a latte and a bagel, and finish (about midnight) with a pepperoni pizza.

Your first encounter with all-you-can-eat dorm food may be pretty enticing. You may find yourself eating more, simply because the food is so convenient. You don't have to shop, cook or do the dishes.

But erratic eating patterns, paying little attention to balanced meals, and relying on comfort food to help you cope with your new lifestyle can result in the notorious "Freshmen 15." This is a 15-pound weight gain that often occurs during a college student's first year on campus, according to Ann Litt, R.D., author of "The College Student's Guide to Eating Well on Campus."

Gaining a few extra pounds is not your only dietary concern. What you eat influences how you look, how you feel, and how you perform mentally on tests and exams. Diet also affects your energy level, performance in sports, and how well you sleep at night, Litt adds.

To stay healthy and avoid the "Freshmen 15," here are some tips from"The College Student's Guide to Eating Well on Campus:"

Bullet Respect the importance of mealtimes and put yourself on a schedule. Eating regularly makes it easier to eat balanced meals and avoid the out-of-control eating that occurs when you get really hungry.

Bullet Eat shortly after you wake up. Breakfast doesn't have to be at 7 a.m., but eating within an hour of waking revs up your metabolism, slips your brain into gear, and helps control "pigging out" later in the day.

Bullet Cruise through the cafeteria before making any selections. Then, choose the healthiest offerings. Go for plain food (like baked chicken or a burger) if you're not sure what ingredients are used in "mystery" dishes such as a casserole or stew.

Bullet Commit to at least one serving of fruit and at least one serving of vegetables at both lunch and dinner. Unadorned, they are low in calories and fat and are fairly filling.

Bullet Make two trips through the cafeteria line instead of one. You'll probably end up eating less if you take a moderate amount of food the first time through, and then go back for seconds or dessert (if you're still hungry).

Bullet When you're done eating, get up and remove your plate. Any food left on your plate is likely to be consumed if it sits in front of you long enough.

Bullet Become aware of the non-hunger cues that motivate you to eat. If you're not physically hungry, but eating more for emotional reasons, wait 5 minutes before grabbing something to eat. Try to find an alternate activity. If you still want to eat, set a realistic portion size and don't go back for more.

Bullet Choose decent late-night snacks. If you eat dinner at 6:30 but stay awake until 2 a.m., your body will need some refueling. Choose a nutritious snack like a bean burrito, saimin (choose saimin noodles that are fresh or baked, not fried), fresh fruit, or a bowl of cereal and skim milk.

"The Student's Guide to Eating Well on Campus" (Tulip Hill Press, June 2000) also discusses nutrition basics, vegetarian diets, the nutritional needs of athletes, eating disorders, the impact of drugs and alcohol on diet, and college cooking. It can be ordered at local bookstores, from online booksellers, or by calling (301) 229-1070.

Health Events

Barbara Burke is a Hawaii-Pacific University instructor
who has been teaching and writing about food
and nutrition since 1975.

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