Eating habits play a big role in college success

Eating healthy can be really tough in college. Some challenges could be not having enough time to prepare healthy meals or not having enough money for quality nutritional food. Unhealthy eating habits can negatively affect students and while it may not be an easy task, it is possible to eat healthy while in college.

Most students have probably heard of the dreaded “Freshman 15″ weight gain statistic, and according to Skyline College Physician’s Assistant Terri Sofarelli, it’s real.

The weight gain, Sofarelli said, is “A result of decrease in exercise, increase in alcohol consumption, lack of sleep, increase in stress, and for those living on campus – access to unlimited high fat and carbohydrate rich cafeteria style food.”

“I think there is some truth to the ‘Freshman 15’,” said Paul Rueckhaus, Skyline’s Allied Health Career Advancement Academy Faculty Coordinator. “But it’s probably closer to the Freshman 7 and not nearly as relevant to commuter students as it is to residential students living on campus.”

Despite the obvious difference in possible weight gain for new college students, a poor diet has negative effects no matter what.

“[Poor Diet] puts students at risk for a vaiety of physical and mental health problems; depression, anxiety, pre-mature aging, insomnia…” said Sofarelli.

Besides physical and emotional issues, poor diet can affect people socially.

“We need the full complement of macronutrients and micronutrients to really build up our capacity to function cognitively, socially and emotionally,” said Rueckhaus. “So, if our diet is too full of, say preservatives, fats, meat, sweets, but not giving us the amino acids, phytonutrients, living cultures, that all interferes with our ability to regulate our mood, form & sustain relationships, process information and think analytically.”

To avoid these negative impacts it is vital that college students make an effort to eat healthy. When it comes to eating healthy both Rueckhaus and Sofarelli suggest plants, vegetables and fruits.

Sofarelli suggests doing some research on overall and specific diets. She referenced the DASH diet, which recommends eating 2 servings of fruit per day, 5 servings of vegetables a day, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy. She also says students who want to get involved with change should request that the food vendors at Skyline post the nutritional information of the food they serve and replace vending machine products with healthy alternatives.

Rueckhaus suggests cooking from scratch and trying to include some vegetables, garlic, and spices. Enjoy your food in moderation, especially when using condiments or dressing, reign yourself in from eating junk food that you may find on a college campus that is full of fat, sugar, and salt, and train yourself to enjoy simple, whole, unprocessed foods.

Eating healthy may not be an easy feat. It will take time, perseverance, and a bit more money, but the advantages of eating healthy greatly outweigh the disadvantages. Eating healthy will make you more physically, emotionally, and socially successful, giving you an enjoyable college experience and good eating habits for a lifetime.