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Section III – Lifestyle Issues - Eat Well & Get Regular Exercise

HealthyLife® Students' Self-Care Guide

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 Section IIILifestyle Issues

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Eat Well & Get Regular

Here you are at college. Maybe this is the
first time you have lived on your own. Are you
wondering what to eat? Worried about gaining weight? Concerned about looking good and staying
fit? The food and exercise choices you make will play
a major role in helping you not only stay
healthy, but also increase your ability to do well in

A Few Words About the Basics

Much like a car, your body runs best when
supplied with the most efficient source of fuel, in
this case – carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are
classified as either simple or complex. Simple
carbohydrates, often called sugars, occur naturally in some
foods, especially fruits. Complex carbohydrates, commonly known as starches, are found in grains
(rice, bread, pasta), beans, and vegetables,
particularly starchy vegetables, such as potatoes and

Frequently accused as fattening,
carbohydrates are actually very filling and help you maintain
a healthy weight. Carbohydrates contain four calories per gram; fats have 9. It would
take a man who needs 3,000 calories 30 potatoes to
maintain his body weight if no other foods were

Carbohydrates are not as easily turned into
body fat as are dietary fats because they “burn”
more efficiently. Of course, any time you
consistently eat more calories (regardless of the source)
than you burn, your body will store the excess
energy as fat. The guideline is to eat about 55 to
60% of your calories from carbohydrates, primarily complex ones. A good way to visualize this
is to have carbohydrate foods fill up 2/3 of the
food on your plate.

Fats add flavor to foods and also help you
feel full from a meal. Although fat is one of the most
criticized nutrients, some fat in the diet is necessary
because it supplies essential fatty acids. The
guideline is to eat 30% or less of your calories from fats. This
is about 60 to 65 grams of fat per day for the
average person.

How about protein? Protein is found in both
animal and plant sources and is an essential
nutrient for it is the main structural component of all tissues
in the body. The guideline is to eat 10 to 15% of
your calories from protein. This amount is easily
supplied from foods you eat. Excessive intake of
protein (whether from foods or supplements) may
actually create health problems and does not lead to
greater muscle mass!

Weight Worries

Has the fear of “The Freshman Fifteen” set
in yet? Weight gain is not an inevitable part of
college life. Sometimes, weight gain is even acceptable.
Cafeteria meals, fast food, and regular restaurants
all offer a variety of healthy food choices. Strive for
a balance. If you choose a high fat food, such as
french fries with a meal, balance it with low-fat items –
vegetables, salad with low-fat dressing, and fresh

Want to know more about balancing your diet
and weight? Check out the information available through the American Dietetic Association’s website, Or browse in your bookstore for The American Dietetic
Association’s Complete Food and Nutrition Guide by Roberta Duyff or
Dieting for Dummies by Jane Kirby.

Don't forget the other side of the equation
which is exercise. Eating right and exercising regularly will keep you in
top form. Do exercises that you enjoy. Exercise at least 3 times a week.
Choose some form of aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming, Tai (Tae)
Bo, etc. Do stretching and strengthening exercises, too. For much more
information on exercise, access the website: Search
for "physical activity."

Breakfast for Better Grades

Starting the day with breakfast is the key to learning. People who eat
breakfast perform better on cognitive tests, have better verbal fluency, and
increased memory. This may not translate into passing college chemistry, but
it does give you a fighting chance.

Eating breakfast also helps you maintain weight. People who eat breakfast
generally burn 4 to 6% more calories than people who do not eat breakfast.

Many students skip breakfast. It is best if you don't. For breakfast,
have whole grain cereal and milk; a breakfast sandwich on whole grain bread;
yogurt with granola; cottage cheese with fresh fruit; leftover pizza, or a
muffin or bagel with milk and an apple. Take a bagel or pop tart and a juice
box to class with you, if you don't set aside time to eat breakfast.

Going Vegetarian?

If you are thinking about trying a vegetarian eating style, you may not
know where to begin. Vegetarianism means eating mostly plant foods. If you
include dairy and egg products in your eating plan, it is easier to meet
your nutrient needs. If you're a vegan ­ which means you only eat plant
foods ­ you may need to supplement your diet with calcium, iron, zinc, and
vitamins B12 and D.

Start slowly. Begin by changing some of your favorite recipes ­ decrease
meat and add more pasta, beans, rice, or vegetables. Look for vegetarian
meat alternatives, like soy or veggie burgers. Experiment with different
types of beans, pasta, and rice. Try red, black, navy, or pinto beans, or
split peas and lentils. Look for different types of rice ­ from plain white
to mixed brown and long grain. Top salads with chickpeas or red beans
instead of cheese. You will also need to increase fluids, like water or
juices to help with the increased fiber.

If you are looking for more information on being a vegetarian, try (The Vegetarian Resource

Snacks and Your Backpack

Snacking is a big part of hectic college life. When you are out shopping for snacks, stock up on pretzels, fruit, graham crackers, mini-size cereal boxes,
popcorn, meal replacement bars, etc.

If snacking and studying go together, try
setting a schedule. Study for one hour and then grab a snack. This helps keep calories in control.
Measure out a portion size of the snack rather than
eating out of a large box or bag.

When it comes to eating on the run, have a 6
inch submarine sandwich on whole grain or a
veggie wrapped pita.
Don’t go long periods of time
without eating. This leaves you famished and

Stress and Emotional Eating

College life may leave you feeling stressed.
Do you need extra vitamins and nutrients? Though a busy schedule may
sometimes cause people to neglect eating well, we do not use any more (or
fewer) nutrients while under mental stress. When you are feeling stressed
and strung-out, try these tips:

Keep healthy foods that won't
spoil in
your backpack

Take time to take care of yourself. This
includes taking time to eat well. Don’t just snack all day. Sit down and
enjoy your meal.
Try quick foods, such as fresh, canned, or
frozen veggies added to canned soups or pastas. Order in if you like,
but try not to skip meals.
Start your day with breakfast! It will
help you get going for the rest of the day.

cravings may be a sign of hunger created from skipping meals, from a lack of
nutrients in your diet, or an attempt to satisfy emotional needs. Food won’t
solve your emotional dilemmas. The next time you find yourself heading for
the fridge for a quick emotional fix, use the tips


You are studying for that big exam and
find yourself nervous and anxious. Instead of splurging on ice cream,
seek out different relaxation techniques. Sit quietly in a chair with
your eyes closed and breathe deeply for a few minutes. Or go for a quick
walk. Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation makes most people anxious and
You’ve had a big fight with your roommate
and are furious. Anger can cause overeating quicker than most other
emotions. Instead of eating as a response to this, try, instead, to
confront the target of your anger. Have that difficult conversation
after you have had a chance to calm down or write out your feelings in a
You find yourself with nothing to do, but
sit around and eat. Many people eat out of boredom. Solution? Diversion!
Find something else to capture your attention. Find which diversions
work best for you and use them.
Most importantly, don’t spend time feeling
guilty when you eat to get an emotional fix. Doing this occasionally is
not a problem.

For Information, Contact:

healthfinder® Web site Web site

Go Ask Alice Web site

6th edition. American Institute for Preventive Medicine
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December 08, 2005