Eating Healthy in College isn’t Easy but it’s Worth It

Avalon Funk
Dec 4, 2018 · 6 min read

Being a college student is not easy. This is a fact that is widely acknowledged by just about every person who has went to university or studied in secondary education system. For many, university presents a series of new challenges such as increased stress, uncertainty of the future, and the lack of financial stability. All these factors are a hazardous mix especially when it comes to the dietary needs of students. In this article I will examine the benefits of maintaining a healthy dietary plan and its effects on overall well being of college students.

Stress is an unavoidable part of the college experience. While every individual experience and expresses stress differently, the abundance of stress in a student’s life can have negative impacts on over all health of an individual. When experiencing continuous high levels of stress one can develop numerous mental health issues such as depression (Elizabeth Raposa, 2015). This can have an impact on one’s motivation, as well as cognitive ability to function in a rigorous environment such as a college class room. This can lead to an increase of stress, a positive feedback loop. Physical activity is also negatively impacted by high levels of stress. A person is less likely to engage in exercise when stressed. There are many ways to reduce the stress of an individual however, many aides, such as exercise, are difficult for a person to accomplish when they’re experiencing stress (Peggy Thoits, 2010).

When a student makes the transition into academic life in college, they face change from a dietary standpoint. Their access to food often decreases leading to a restricted diet that often fails to provide healthy eating habits for the student. What creates the lack of diversity in food consumption among college students? Many only have the option of what’s provided to them on a day to day basis from on campus dining facilities, such facilities as I recall my freshman year at UTSA, failed to provide regular healthy foods. While salad was often present the main dishes were often heavily fried or mainly carbohydrates (Sam Abraham, et all, 2018) . While these meal plans are beneficial to students who often lack the funds to provide for themselves, there is still issues that come from the average meal hall. Endless buffets provide students the sustenance they need but not the nutrition.

A healthy lifestyle is not just dependent on physical activity, but on a healthy diet as well. In the united states there’s a large variety of food options available for college students, yet many options that are readily available and affordable are fast food chains. Caloric intake, and sugar consumption are shown to increase when an individual is experiencing stress. Such foods are cheaply available to many college students. This means that a college student is less likely to maintain a balanced diet, and instead consume lots of carbs and fatty foods (Cliff Roberts, 2012) which negatively impact the health of the student.

Food is important in the function of the human body. Made up of complex compounds that break apart during digestion to provide the body with nutrients needed for daily function (David Jacobs, 2013). Fruits and vegetables are filled with nutrients such as fibers and various minerals that have positive health affects (Environmental Nutrition, 2014). More research needs to be done in finding articles relating to the health benefits of each food group, such as fruits and vegetables.

Source: IFoodReal, Salmon was a staple for me paired with a green side such as broccoli or asparagus

As classes approached midterms, and every day it seems as if there is a project due that is worth 50% of my final grade I began to notice an increase in lethargy and slump of mental health. I also noticed a shift in my diet. Before midterms, I was eating a very well-balanced diet. Ensuring that I ate vegetables and cut back on carbohydrates and fatty foods. My diet shifted to one comprised mainly of Chick-fil-a, my usual being a chicken sandwich, large waffle fry, and some sweet tea. As I ate more, my mental health decreased, due to a lowering self-image and increase in stress from my courses. I was unmotivated to complete even the simplest assignments, and even more unmotivated to perform any sort of physical activity other than sleep in my free time. I decided to change my diet to see if healthier foods could influence my overall health.

As I shifted my diet to a more balanced one, I found that I began to cut out many foods that contain cholesterol, as well as a fair number of dairy products. In a given week my meals consisted of more vegetables, and less fats. The impact was immediate. Just the mental affect of knowing what I was consuming was healthy provided for a better overall mood. I noticed a decrease in lethargy and lack of motivation that allowed for a more effective work ethic. A beneficial side effect at the cut back on dairy allowed for better skin condition. One day, I decided to cheat, to see the effects of a sudden increase in fatty foods and how it would Affect my health. To be frank, I felt terrible after eating a burger and fries. I felt bloated and greasy and didn’t want to move for the remainder of the day. When it came to academic rigors, there was improvement overall. I was completing assignments before the due date, as well as retaining more information without the need to continuously review.

To conclude, diet is an important part of ones life. Doubly so when you are in college and face new stresses and rigors. The brain uses the nutrients in ones food to control a variety of bodily function required for a healthy lifestyle such as mood regulators and as physical activity. When I changed my diet from one with high cholesterol and high fat to one of amino acids and proteins my brain began to function better. I was active and engaged in day to day life in a way that I was unable to be before.

Works Cited

Abraham, S., Noriega, B. R., & Shin, J. Y. (2018). College students eating habits and knowledge of nutritional requirements. Journal of Nutrition and Human Health, 2(1). Retrieved from http://www.alliedacademies.org/abstract/college-students-eating-habits-and-knowledge-of-nutritional-requirements-9188.html

Emerson, S. D., & Carbert, N. S. (2018). An apple a day: Protective associations between nutrition and the mental health of immigrants in Canada. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-018-1616-9

Honey Garlic Salmon — Pan Fried Until Crispy — iFOODreal — Healthy Family Recipes. (2017, December 4). Retrieved December 3, 2018, from https://ifoodreal.com/honey-garlic-salmon/

How the food you eat affects your brain — Mia Nacamulli — YouTube. (n.d.). Retrieved December 3, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyQY8a-ng6g

Jacobs, D. R., & Tapsell, L. C. (2013). Food synergy: the key to a healthy diet. The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society; Cambridge, 72(2), 200–206. https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0029665112003011

Lock, K., Pomerleau, J., Causer, L., Altmann, D. R., & McKee, M. (2005). The global burden of disease attributable to low consumption of fruit and vegetables: implications for the global strategy on diet. World Health Organization. Bulletin of the World Health Organization; Geneva, 83(2), 100–108. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/229568942/abstract/54821B817ABC4473PQ/

Raposa, E. B., Laws, H. B., & Ansell, E. B. (2016). Prosocial Behavior Mitigates the Negative Effects of Stress in Everyday Life. Clinical Psychological Science, 4(4), 691–698. https://doi.org/10.1177/2167702615611073

Roberts, C., Troop, N., Connan, F., Treasure, J., & Campbell, I. C. (2007). The Effects of Stress on Body Weight: Biological and Psychological Predictors of Change in BMI. Obesity, 15(12), 3045–3055. https://doi.org/10.1038/oby.2007.363

Thoits, P. A. (2010). Stress and Health: Major Findings and Policy Implications. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 51, S41–S53. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stab

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