Healthy Eating 101 for College Students

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Going off to college? You can still have good eating habits even without mom's healthy home cooked meals. Read on for some practical tips.

Late night study sessions, fast food, parties and unlimited dining hall desserts. These are often the downfall of college students despite the best healthy diet intentions.

Careful planning (and a fridge in your dorm room!) can go a long way, though, in overcoming these obstacles. Follow these tips to prevent "freshman bulge" and keep good eating habits on track:

Eat breakfast. Even if you're pressed for time, remember that it's important to start the day on the right foot. Scrambled eggs and whole-wheat toast, yogurt or cottage cheese and fruit, or a bowl of whole-grain hot or cold cereal are all good choices. Or just grab a whole-wheat bagel or pita, a piece of fruit and some skim milk.

Stock up on healthy snacks. Avoid the vending machine (and the candy, chips and ice cream) by stocking your dorm with nutritious snacks. Try fresh or dried fruit, low-fat yogurt, raw veggies, low-fat microwave popcorn, flavored rice cakes or whole-wheat crackers and low-fat cheese. Mid-afternoon, go for microwavable veggie or bean soup, instant oatmeal or hummus and crackers. Carry a piece of fruit and/or a healthy granola bar in your backpack in case you get the munchies between classes.

Limit fast food. It's not realistic to completely avoid fast food in college. You can try to choose wisely, though. Pizza with half the cheese, a grilled chicken or small roast beef sandwich, a baked potato or a green salad are all good choices. Limit high-fat foods like french fries, fried chicken or fish sandwiches and fatty salad dressings.

Be careful at the salad bar. It often includes some less-than-healthy choices. Stick mostly with leafy greens, raw vegetables, plain tuna or chicken, plain kidney beans or chickpeas and corn. Top it off with a drizzle of olive oil and vinegar, a handful of sunflower seeds and some grated Parmesan if it's offered. If you opt for creamy dressings, bacon bits and mayonnaise-based salads, the calories and fat may even exceed those of a burger and fries.

Manage your stress. Along with final exams, college life comes with changes and challenges that can be stressful. It's common to turn to comfort food or overeat to deal with the stress. To avoid this, look for healthy ways to cope other than eating. Journaling about your feelings, exercising, yoga classes and meditation may all be good alternatives to explore.

Mind what you drink. One light beer, glass of wine or ounce of liquor each has about 100 calories. This adds up quickly, especially if you add soda or juice. Also, it's easy to get hooked on bottomless refills of soda, which add hundreds of calories. Water, tea, skim milk and/or seltzer with a splash of juice are better choices.

Think outside the box. If chicken breast is served with fries and creamed spinach, ask for the chicken breast only. Slice it up over greens and veggies from the salad bar. Or pair it with some plain brown rice from the Chinese food or taco station. Your dining hall may also offer "make your own" options. Ask for stir-fried veggies and lean meats, or mix veggies into a tomato-based pasta dish.

Watch the dessert trap. Most dining halls offer an unlimited choice of ice cream, cakes and cookies. Without mom around to limit dessert to just one serving, you'll have to watch yourself when it comes to sweets. Pick one item and pair with some fresh fruit from the salad bar.

Before your bags are even packed, check out your school's Web site. Look for info on all the dining halls, snack bars and other food service operations. Some schools will even provide menu choices, nutrition facts, comment/feedback forms and other resources that will help to buy cialis daily a healthy eating strategy.