Healthy eating options are important for college students
October 3, 2013 12:00 PM
Students can create their own salads at Shippensburg University's Reisner Dining Hall.
By Jacob Axelrad Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"Keep your fridge stacked with healthy snacks."
I'll never forget these words, spoken to me by Bo, a wise upperclassman. They have remained etched in my mind since the beginning of my freshman year of college.
More than the study tips I received from professors or the advice my parents gave me on how to make friends -- "You should try going to the Hillel; they have free dinners on Fridays," my dad suggested on numerous occasions -- Bo's words have stuck with me, even though I never knew his last name.
Consider: it's 11:30 a.m. on a Monday and you need lunch. You skipped breakfast because your first class is at 10 a.m., and that's far too early for any sort of life-like activity. So you need lunch, not brunch. Brunch is fancy, and you are not.
You just got out of your freshman-writing seminar and have half an hour until your chemistry lab starts. You go back to your dorm.
You could use one of your meals from your meal plan and dash into the dining hall, attempting to scarf down whatever you can find that's feasible to eat in the few minutes you have. But dining hall experiences do not go quickly. You wait in line. By the time you do sit down, tray of food in hand, you've got about five minutes until noon and that chemistry lab is way across campus. In short, the dining hall is a time-suck.
The other option would be the vending machine. But a regular lunch diet of Reese's and M&M's, delicious though they are, make you feel like your body is slowly deteriorating.
But I'm here to recommend secret option No. 3. This is the one where, over the weekend, you went to the small grocery shop down the street from your dorm run by the friendly Rastafarian guy and purchased a few apples, oranges, carrots, celery, some yogurts, the list goes on.
Because you already have a nice little mini fridge shoved in the corner of your dorm room, you've got your healthy snacks stored, waiting for this moment when you need nutrients during that dead zone between 11:30 a.m. and noon. Have yourself a yogurt, peel an orange, perhaps store a few string cheeses in your backpack for later and you're getting it done like a pro.
This doesn't only apply to your health, either. What better way to make friends than to invite some people over from your hall and share some Grape-Nuts with mixed berries? For all you young lovers looking to entertain a nice young lady or man on a Friday evening, a piece of celery does indicate romance in many cultures around the world. Well, that's not exactly true, but it could be.
I understand the difficulty inherent in waking up on a Saturday morning and walking 50 feet to the corner grocery, or heaven forbid getting on a bus to a bigger store. But that's a little extreme. We're not there yet.
When you're juggling new classes, a new living situation, a roommate who seemingly always sleeps and is always intoxicated (don't even try to figure out how he or she actually attends classes), being on your own for possibly the first time in your life, and new pressures, eating healthy can easily fall by the wayside. You've heard of the Freshman 15. You know the drill.
I'm not advising anything close to real shopping, although that's something you may want to consider somewhere down the road.
I'm simply suggesting that when you do have a few minutes to spare between studying and drinking (juice), that you swing by that small shop that happens to have a small section of healthy choices. Pick up a few things once or twice a week.
You might forget you even bought them. But when Monday morning rolls around, you'll be smiling when you discover that welcome surprise of produce staring you in the face from your mini fridge. Maybe it'll even help get you through that chemistry course.
Jacob Axelrad, who was a summer intern at the Post-Gazette, is a senior at University of Michigan majoring in English and history. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.