By Matthew Muir | Staff Writer
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle in the stressful and hectic environment of college life can be hard, but it’s not impossible. With the proper preparation and dedication, students can eat right and stay active.
“The first thing I tell people is that it can be done,” Dr. LesLee Funderburk, a professor in the Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences said. Funderburk is an expert in nutrition, and recommends that students trying to eat healthy on a budget should focus on plant-based foods.
“We are always going to tell people to focus on plant-based foods first: fruits, vegetables, whole grains,” Funderburk said. “Buy fruits and vegetables that are in-season or frozen.”
Funderburk said avoiding processed foods is an effective way to eat healthier and save money at the same time.
“The more unprocessed the foods that you’re buying are the more affordable they’re going to be, and more importantly you’re going to get that whole nutrition that we are advocating people get,” Funderburk said. “If they get the whole grains, the fruit and vegetables and those good sources of protein, then they can have an overall healthy diet and still be on a budget.”
Protein-rich foods are another area to target when trying to eat healthy. While cheap and healthy meat options are available, other foods can just as effectively fulfill a day’s protein needs.
“The protein foods that we’re going to tell people to rely on that are budget friendly are your beans and peas, your eggs, your peanut butter,” Funderburk said. “Of course, there are lean means that can be purchased that take a little bit more time and preparation: chicken, chicken thighs, ground turkey.”
Funderburk recommends meal-prepping, or cooking large amounts of food at once and portioning it to last multiple days, as a way to make eating healthy more convenient. Cooking with a slow cooker or Crock-Pot is another low-hassle way to cook meals at home. Purchasing fresh premade meals which require minimal preparation is effective option when short on time.
When a grabbing a quick snack or eating out is the easiest, quickest or just the most appealing option, Funderburk’s said avoiding foods or drinks with “empty calories” like candy bars or soda is a must. Another priority, she said, should be avoiding fried foods.
“As far as eating out is concerned… you would want to do something where you can choose [food] that is not fried. When I think of not fried I think of some of the sandwich shops in our area,” Funderburk said. “You can choose to have the whole grain bread, the lean meats… stay away from the mayonnaises and the sauces.”
In addition to nutrition, staying active is another part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Dr. MaryAnn Jennings, a senior lecturer in lifetime fitness, said students who get into the habit of regular exercise will carry the benefits into the future.
“[Students should be] finding the time to put it into their schedules and finding an importance for it,” Jennings said. “Their body is young and seems to be in fairly good shape, but they don’t realize what will happen later in life. If they create good habits early, they’ll continue later in life.”
Jennings recommends a mix of cardio and weight training, whether be they done together or separate. The key, Jennings said, is to find activities with a certain level of intensity; merely walking from class to class isn’t enough.
“If they’re not getting their heart rate up into that target heart rate zone, they’re not really working the cardiovascular system and they’re not really developing a strength training regimen,” Jennings said. “While yes, [walking] is good for you, it’s not really to the intensity it needs to be to get all of the health benefits out of it.”