More Americans are cutting burgers, pizza and fries from their diets.
Adults consumed about 11% of their daily calories from fast food during 2007-2010, a decrease from almost 13% from 2003-2006, according a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While younger adults tended to consume more calories than older adults, some college students are becoming more aware of health issues. Many college campuses also provide healthy programs and initiatives.
“I know a lot of people that also cut back on fast food or don’t eat it at all,” said Jennifer Brady, a junior history major at the University of Maryland, who said she eats fast food once or twice a week. “At the diners on campus, the salad bar and the vegan and vegetarian stations are always used frequently.”
Brady, who works at one of the diners on her campus, said she notices students look at the menus to see what’s in the food. For instance, they check whether or not it is gluten-free or lactose-free.
“There are definitely a lot of healthy food places on and around campus. Around campus we have Subway, a yogurt cafe, a noodle cafe. Two miles from campus we even have a local organic market that sells strictly organic goods and fresh fruits and vegetables. … I usually buy fresh fruits, their granola bars and nut mixes.”
However, Pailyn Saengpet, a junior sociology major at the University of Maryland – Baltimore County, said she thinks healthy food options at her school could be improved.
“I think they’re starting to have healthier options on campus, but it’s a little more expensive,” she said, adding that students have salad, fruit and oatmeal available on campus. “They’re trying to provide more [healthy food], but there’s still not that many options.”
Saengpet also said college students face problems with both buying healthy food at stores and making time to prepare food.
“Sometimes getting healthy food that’s already prepared is more expensive,” she said.
She added that when one of her friends had an apartment, she would actually go out to eat more frequently than cooking her own meals because she wouldn’t have time to make food or if she made food, it would spoil.
Renee Matich, a registered dietician and instructor at Mississippi State University, recommended that students make food plans to better manage their time and eat healthier.
Matich teaches an introductory class on nutrition and one of the assignments she gives her class is to keep a log of food they consume. She said she’s noticed a trend of students eating less, but more prepared food such as granola bars and Kraft Easy Mac.
The right amount of calories to consume varies from person to person and depends on how active a person is. Athletes would need to consume a higher amount of calories than someone who is mostly leading a sedentary lifestyle, Matich said.
“Having a healthy diet and weight for college students is all about planning,” she said. “It’s part eating what’s available and having a food plan that makes sense. Try to have fresh fruits and fresh vegetables, and moderate intake of foods that are higher in fat and added sugar.”
Mississippi State offers a salad station, plenty of low-calorie options and a student dietician group that promotes health. Recently, the group taught an Italian cooking workshop, showing other students how to prepare a pasta meal with salad.
Matich added that the various drinks people consume can rack up a lot of calories, including coffee, chai tea and enhanced water beverages like SoBe. She also warned that a lot of food and drinks have hidden calories, like sweet tea from a fast-food restaurant could have more sugar than a can of Coke.
“The main things are looking at convenience and [foods] that are easy to access and fast in the sense they don’t need a lot of preparation,” she said. “Stuff like bananas, apples and oranges hold well in dorm rooms. They could have cut up vegetables to fill plates up and less of cookies and cakes.”
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