Maintaining healthy eating habits as a college student

Pizza is served daily at the Penland Dining Hall. Liesje Powers | Multimedia Editor

By Harry Rowe | Staff Writer

One problem college students often face — especially freshmen — is weight gain. A statistical analysis from Nuffield Department of Population Health, a research center in Oxford, revealed more than 5,500 college freshmen had an average weight gain of three pounds over five months.

Stan Wilfong, a registered dietitian and consumer science lecturer at Baylor, said the stress of a new place and a new lifestyle can challenge students in their attempt to keep up with healthy habits.

“[Students] tend to have more free time than they had in the past; when you went to high school, the day was very structured,” Wilfong said. “[For high school] you just had a little break — 30 minutes for lunch. Now there’s a lot more freedom. If you’re on a meal plan, it’s almost unlimited food.”

Wilfong said the social component can lead to unhealthy over-eating. When people get together to mingle, there is often food involved. What was supposed to be a quick coffee get together with a longtime friend can turn into something of much higher calories.

Wilfong pointed out the high caloric diet students are unknowingly consuming often come from some of their favorite places, like Starbucks or Common Grounds. Starbucks’ highest caloric drink is the Java Chip Blended Coffee. A venti (or large) will give you 600 calories of coffee and a boatload of sugar.

Wilfong said students should want to make sure their diet is a healthy one. This starts with healthy portioning. “Variety, moderation and balance” are the three things he advises students to pay attention to when consuming food.

“You want to make sure you’re eating things in proper proportions, and you want to make sure that you’re eating things in proper proportions,” Wilfong advised younger students who want to keep weight off.

He added that meat, while having importance to the human diet, should be considered more of a side dish. He recommended making a meal half fruits and/or vegetables. This means when living on campus freshman year, it’s important not to only stock up on pizza from Penland; don’t be afraid to branch out to the less “exciting” foods.

Dr. Leigh Greathouse, assistant professor of family and consumer sciences, had a few suggestions for people looking to take some snacks with them throughout the day.

“I would look for nutrient dense snacks that are maybe not so calorie dense; that would be anything that you maybe want to take with you. If you want to take apples, oranges, bananas as snacks, that’s an idea,” Greathouse said. “You want to look for things that are both high in protein and high in nutrients but maybe not so calorie dense. Anything that will keep at room temperature would be a good snack to invest in.”

She said this kind of healthy planning takes time, and it would be best to pack snacks in some sort of lunch box. Greathouse said while it takes time to thoughtfully plan out meals, it is worth it in the long run.

Greathouse also said that she recommended students assess their eating habits over a three day span. This is a way to notice patterns that could possibly be detrimental to a student’s health or energy.

Appointments can be made with registered dietitian Regina Mastin to assess eating habits and develop a healthy plan. The sessions are free and include a 30 minute follow up session. Information on these sessions are available online.