Six Snacking Tips for the Hungry College Student

It is certainly that time of the semester where my planner is chock-full of assignments, exams, and student organization meetings. In the midst of a busy semester, it is easy to take short cuts when it comes to your health and nutritional needs. If you are anything like me, I am constantly hungry. Three o’clock rolls around and I am ready for a boost of energy to get me through the day. Here are some tips and tools to arm you with the knowledge you need when hunger strikes.

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Be Proactive

My best piece of advice would be to be proactive. It is easy to grab unhealthy snacks such as chips, cookies, and other processed foods because they are convenient and prepackaged. However, there are alternatives that are more health conscious and will keep you fuller.

When I lived on campus, I would go to one of the campus market locations (Union Market, Curl Market, and Marketplace) and stock my Microfridge with containers of fresh cut berries, yogurt parfaits, and small salads. When a craving would strike, I would already be prepared with healthy options in my own room.

Watch Your Portion Size

Always remember, a snack is NOT a meal. A snack should be something to keep you focused throughout the day–not a meal replacement.

Keep portions small and pay attention to serving sizes. Check out the nutrition label on the back and estimate what a serving would be. It is so easy to mindlessly eat and all of the sudden the whole bag is gone. Oops!

Pack with Care

You might be on-the-go like me or a commuter student who brings your lunch and snacks to school. It is important to pack your snacks safely to avoid food spoilage.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, perishable items such as cheese, meats, and yogurts should not be left out for more than two hours. Make sure you pack snacks with a cold pack and in an insulated container to ensure safe snacking on the go.

Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated is so important, especially since we’re hiking around campus all day. It is a great idea to carry a water bottle in your backpack–there are many convenient water bottle filling stations all around campus and in residence halls.

Stick to water instead of surgery sweetened beverages. If you crave fizz, try flavored sparkling water.

Look Out for Sugar Bombs

You might be surprised to learn that your favorite granola and protein bars might have as much sugar as a candy bar. The food industry is really sneaky at adding extra sugar to foods and advertising them as “healthy.”

A great alternative would be to snack on fresh fruit with natural sugar and nut butters to give you the boost you need. For example, apples and peanut butter is a delicious snack.

When in Doubt, Consult an Expert

If you are unsure of your specific caloric needs or need help navigating campus dining, it is always best to consult an expert. A Registered Dietitian (RD) is a nutrition expert that can help you with your specific dietary needs.

Fortunately at Ohio State, there are many resources here to help you. Check out the Student Wellness Center located inside the RPAC for nutrition coaching.

From one food lover to another, happy snacking!

Four Meals I Should Have Done Differently

Now that March has arrived, I’m beginning to feel the excitement for spring and summer months ahead. This is also the time of year when I realize how my poor winter habits have caught up with me. Specifically, how my love of comfort foods tends to spike during the cold winter months. If you’re like me, you might have put on a layer—or two—of “insulation” after giving into cravings for pasta, cheese, and warm chocolate chip cookies. It is difficult to choose to eat a salad for dinner on a freezing, snowy day when you could choose a warm, creamy bowl of pasta instead. Am I right?

When I was an Ohio State student using the meal plan, I found it difficult to make healthy eating choices when there were other seemingly more delicious–and often unhealthy–options right in front of me. After surrendering to my lack of willpower for most of my freshman year (circa 2007), I wish I could go back in time and knock some sense into my 18-year-old self.

Below I listed some of my favorite campus meals that made up my typical diet as a first-year student at Ohio State…yes, some of the same menu items have been around this long! Then I listed some alternatives that I wish I would have eaten instead. Shout out to this nutrition calculator for showing the nutrition facts for all of these campus meals! For the sake of this post, I included calorie counts for the meals below.

Breakfast at The Ohio Union 

(Although the Union did not open until my third year at Ohio State, this is what I likely would have eaten as a first-year student…)

My typical meal choice at Sloopy’s:

  • Two chocolate pancakes: 1,018
  • Orange juice: 110
  • TOTAL: 1,128 calories

What I could eat at Espress-OH instead:

  • Regular coffee with cream and Splenda: 80
  • Banana: 105
  • 1 cup of dry Cheerios: 110
  • TOTAL: 295 calories

Snack at the 18th Avenue Library

Typical snack choice:

  • Large frozen mocha: 738 calories

What I could eat instead:

  • Sliced apples & peanut butter: 209 calories

Lunch on North Campus

My typical meal choice at North Commons (based on today’s menu):

  • Parmesan crusted chicken: 420
  • Italian vegetable mix: 42
  • Chicken tortilla soup: 97
  • Chocolate milk: 232
  • Two chocolate chip cookies: 281
  • TOTAL: 1,070 calories

What I could eat instead at Oxley’s By the Numbers:

  • Pretzel club sub: 592
  • Water: 0
  • TOTAL: 592 calories

Dinner at MarketPlace on Neil

My typical meal choice:

  • Chicken pesto alfredo rotini, large (#8): 962
  • Sprite: 253
  • TOTAL: 1,215 calories

What I could eat instead:

  • Chicken Caesar Wrap: 680
  • Berry cup: 102
  • Water: 0
  • TOTAL: 782 calories

After a full day of making these “typical” meal choices, I would have consumed 4,151 calories, but an entire day of choosing the alternate meal options would have brought me to 1,879 calories total.  

I should also note another valuable resource here: this calorie calculator can estimate the suggested amount of calories a person should ideally consume per day based on his/her age, size, and lifestyle.  Maybe a 6’5″ athlete could survive on a 4,000 calorie diet…but I, standing at 5′ 0″, would not fare so well on this diet. After using that calorie calculator for myself, it’s no wonder why my 18-year-old eating habits impacted my body in the ways they did.

Disclaimer: Remember that calories are just one of many ways to measure the nutrition value of food. If you’re unsure about the meaning of the other items on a nutrition label, I suggest enrolling in Human Nutrition 2310 or doing some research on your own. This book is great, too.

Be healthy, Buckeyes!

New Year’s Resolutions for a Healthy, Successful Second Semester

It’s that time of year again! The start of a new semester, a fresh slate, and a Twitter feed full of #NewYearNewMe posts. Everyone wants to make positive changes for the new year, but sometimes following through can be a little tricky, especially for busy, broke college students. I’m here to offer you five easy resolutions that can make your academic, professional, and personal life that much better in 2015!

Dedicate time to go the RPAC a few times a week (and not just for the food at Courtside Cafe).

As Ohio State students, we are blessed to have such a beautiful facility at our disposal. Take advantage of the many resources it houses such as group fitness classes, personal training, and wellness coaching! When you’re done, you can treat yourself to the sauna, the hot tub, or even a massage!

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Drop the “college kid” diet.

Yes, we know. Ramen Noodles are good. They don’t really do much for you, though. Give your body the fuel it deserves with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and protein. Also, take a couple minutes and visit the University Dining website to see what’s in the foods YOU are buying at the dining halls. Need help making healthy food choices? The Student Wellness Center in the RPAC can help you design a plan that’s tailored to your body’s specific needs! Lastly, when grabbing last minute items to “fill” a block, try those Good Greens Bars instead of chips or cookies!

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Keep yourself, and your space, organized!

Sharing a space with one, two, or three other people can be hard. Sharing a messy and cluttered space is ten times harder. Do yourself (and your roommates) a favor by clearing out any junk that may have accumulated from last semester. This means the fridge, any common areas, desks, and closet space. I know you’re sick of accidentally grabbing your roommate’s socks instead of your own, or smelling that General Tso’s Chicken that’s been on the top shelf since October. Do you find yourself forgetting important deadlines or losing class notes? Invest in one (or more) of the following!

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Start preparing for midterm exams NOW!

I know it’s hard to even acknowledge the existence of midterms after just finishing up “Syllabus Week”, but after last semester we all know that they have a way of sneaking up on us. Start organizing your notes now by keeping them in a safe and easy-access spot, like a binder or computer file, so that they will be easier to find and study from later. Also, start study guides of important tidbits your professors say in class (listen for “this will be on the exam”, or “this would make a good exam question”).

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Branch out and meet new Buckeyes!

College isn’t just about passing classes and getting a degree. Make time to meet new people and get involved on campus! Little things like keeping your door open when you’re in your room or suggesting you and some floor mates go on a “dinner date” to Sloopy’s can make a difference in your semester! Take the leap and start a conversation with the person next to you in class. They might be involved in a club or organization you might be interested in!

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