Choosing between a nutritious meal and one that is high in fat may be difficult, but having a healthy lifestyle now can be worth the trouble. / Photo by Sho Kitamura

One of the biggest challenges of college for many is balancing a healthy lifestyle with a busy work schedule a often on a budget. This week, Focus helps students by delivering advice on fostering healthier eating habits.

“Research has shown that students learn better when well-nourished. Healthy eating has been linked to higher grades, better memory and concentration, more alertness, faster information processing and better attendance,” said Angie Garcia, Tech’s registered dietitian.

“Students learn better when well-nourished”

Additionally, she recommends students choose whole grains like whole wheat bread, brown rice and wheat pasta over refined white products. These options provide more nutrients and fiber to keep people feeling full longer, and they aren’t processed.
As a general rule of thumb, avoiding meals that could not be prepared in the kitchen is a good way to avoid processed items and fast foods.

Before consuming their next meal, students should ask themselves, “Could a cave man have prepared what’s on my plate?” The Cave Man Diet, also known as Paleo, centers around the consumption of foods that people would have had access to thousands of years ago. Groceries lists are also helpful. Buying in bulk and purchasing fruits and vegetables that are in season will add to freshness and lower cost. Also, cooking multiple meals at once and saving them to consume throughout the week is a time- and effort-saving technique. Garcia points out the surprising connection between academic performance and diet.

“One of the biggest mistakes students make is skipping meals. Eating a meal or snack every four to six hours will help keep your metabolism working efficiently. It’s best to eat in certain increments during the day, starting with a light breakfast,” Garcia added.

“One of the biggest mistakes students make is skipping meals”

Students can schedule individualized meetings with Garcia to discuss their diets and make strategies for healthier eating.
“For some people, an individualized approach works better than general guidelines. A student may think they are doing everything right according to the guidelines, but a dialogue with the dietitian may reveal areas that can be tweaked to provide greater health benefits,” Garcia said.

Garcia and other health professionals can address a variety of health concerns from students.

“The questions from students can vary quite a bit, from how to lose weight to how to gain muscle weight, or even avoid food allergy issues. Some students are referred to me after seeing one of the Stamps physicians for high cholesterol and blood pressure. Other students may be referred by a member of the Eating Disorder Treatment Team to obtain specialized treatment from experts in that area,” Garcia said.