Students should take diets seriously

By By Spencer Merrick

By Spencer Merrick

Although I make occasional attempts at being healthy, most of my tries follow the same unsuccessful pattern. I meander through the aisles at the grocery store and pick up an assortment of healthful-looking vegetables, particularly those that say “organic” or that have Chinese names I can’t pronounce. Then I buy the greenest bananas I can find, because I know I won’t remember to eat them until the semester’s over. I throw a few boneless steaks in my cart, look at the price tag of the boneless steaks, take the boneless steaks out of my cart and settle for some bony chicken thighs. After buying some cereal that more closely resembles cat food, I get home and realize that I have no idea what to do with everything I just bought, and I end up frying everything and eating it with Cheez Wiz and RITZ Crackers.

In the end, my diet, like that of many college students, consists of far too many Ramen noodles and Marshmallow Mateys and of far too few fruits, proteins and whole grains.

A study done by Tufts University in Medford, Mass., found that 66 percent of freshmen don’t consume the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, 60 percent eat too much artery-clogging saturated fat and 59 percent said they knew their diet had gone downhill since they went to college.

Julie Metos, director of the Coordinated Masters Program in the U’s nutrition department, said, “You have to be on the defense. It’s not a matter of being especially knowledgeable about food nutrition, it’s a simple matter of planning so that you can take care of your health.”

She said with something such as Ramen noodles, for instance, you would need to add a little extra protein to make it a good, balanced snack.

“It has a lot of fat, so you’d want to make sure the rest of your day isn’t high in oil and fat,” she said.

Unless you take a closer look, the nutrition facts listed on some foods can be deceiving. You might look at the back of a package of instant noodles and think it is surprisingly low on saturated fats, but if you look closer you’ll notice that the little brick of noodles is divided into two or even three servings, depending on the brand. It takes a very small person to eat only a third of a brick of Ramen and call it a serving. Often, the little packet of seasonings even has its own separate nutrition facts.

Students who eat poorly often give the excuse that they don’t have the time or money necessary to eat healthful foods. Whatever the excuse, poor eating habits can have a detrimental effect on ones ability to focus on the thing that’s probably consuming time and money in the first place8212;school.

“Your alertness, your ability to have plenty of energy and your cognition are really affected by your nutrition and your physical activity,” Metos said. She also said one of the biggest problems with college students is that they eat irregularly, causing their blood sugar levels to fluctuate. “You need to eat every four or five hours or it can really plummet,” she said. Low blood sugar levels, among other things, often result in an inability to concentrate.

There are a number of healthy, relatively inexpensive foods that can help balance out the diet of a college student that require little or no time to prepare. Cereal, preferably sweetened and with low-fat milk, is an excellent way to start out the day. Yogurt is inexpensive when bought in large quantities and is an excellent source of protein and calcium. Sandwiches can be a very healthy choice8212;just remember to substitute wheat bread for white and to go easy on the condiments.

Students are at a stage where they set many of their eating habits for the rest of their lives, and unfortunately, far too many are too lax about their health. We often disregard the effect an unhealthy diet can have on academic performance, stress levels and overall happiness and well-being. Sacrificing health in the name of budget or time is never worth the price.

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Spencer Merrick