You have a lot on your plate — make sure food is on there too

Morgan Dowler | Cartoonist

When you get to college, you often get the first glimpse of what true independence looks like. No one here is looking out for you like they did at home. You are responsible for your own grocery shopping, your own cooking and your own eating habits. The routines you create in these four years are often what you will do for life, and skipping meals can easily become one of those habits. Don’t let it.

It’s hard enough trying to juggle mountains of school work, a demanding social life and a healthy amount of sleep. Add a balanced diet to that, and it can absolutely seem daunting. In order to stay moving, though, you have to give your body the nutrients it needs. And just to be clear, caffeine isn’t an appropriate alternative for a meal. You need real food with vitamins and protein.

Notice how many times a week you or someone else talks about how little they have eaten that day — or the classic “All I’ve had today is my iced coffee.” Do you not have enough time to eat? Make time. Carve out a 20-minute period in your day to grab lunch. Sit down with friends or with some homework that won’t require all of your attention and have dinner. Make it a point to eat, whether that means packing a quick meal for yourself or eating at an earlier time because you have a class during your usual lunchtime. If you need to set a reminder in your phone or pencil it into your planner, do that.

Some days are busier than others, and you might need more calories to successfully get through the day. Pack snacks in your bag. Don’t ignore your hunger. Listen to what your body is telling you.

Skipping meals is not a habit you want to start in college; the habits you start now will be hard to break later. College has normalized having only one meal a day, when you should really be having two hearty meals a day at the very least. This time is imperative for your growth and education. Eat as such because, if you aren’t careful, you may start to blur the line between a “normal” eating pattern and an unhealthy lifestyle.

Not eating doesn’t just create an empty stomach; it can result in an empty brain too. Studies show that a “more favorable dietary intake” results in higher academic success according to Dr. Tracy L. Burrows, professor at The University of Newcastle. The time you think you’re saving by skipping a meal to study might actually be less productive than it would have been if you had taken 10 minutes to eat before hitting the books.

If you struggle with meal planning or knowing what a healthy diet looks like, reach out to the resources provided to you. Take advantage of the university’s dietitians by visiting their office the McLane Student Life Center or calling their office at 254-710-2567. Look out for yourself, and pay attention to how your friends are doing — they may need more help than you think.