It’s that time again! All across the country, college students are leaving their summer jobs behind and heading back to campus. Freshmen and grad students alike can make this their best year yet by excelling in the classroom, letting loose with fun extracurricular activities, and feeding their potential with healthy food choices.
This last point is worth highlighting. It’s all too easy for eating well to wind up at the bottom of your to-do list when you’re still getting used to living away from home. In fact, 95 percent of college students miss out on the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables, according to research published in Preventive Medicine.
Combine this with results from a Northwestern Medicine and Northeastern Illinois study, in which more than 60 percent of students said they don’t get enough physical activity, and it’s easy to see why giving college students more opportunities to form healthy habits can go a long way.
One school that’s definitely doing it right: Arizona State University (ASU). ASU and Aramark are working together to help students make good-for-you choices part of their life on campus. Get inspired by how ASU students, faculty, and community members incorporate nutritious food into their daily lives.
Understand How Food Helps You Achieve Your Goals
If you learn how healthy foods affect your body and mind, you are bound to gravitate toward the healthy options available from the entrée station to the salad bar to the fruit basket.
ASU student Victoria danced for most of her childhood, so at a young age she discovered how eating the right foods would help her perform. “I saw that food was more than just a daily social thing. I started seeing how nutrition would improve my whole lifestyle,” she explains.
Today, as a nutrition and dietetics major, Victoria powers her active lifestyle with the wholesome options that surround her in ASU’s dining halls. “It’s really cool to see the connection between [what I’m learning in] the classroom and the real world.”
So brush up on the basics: Go for whole grains, limit added sugars, watch portion sizes. Then see how it makes you feel. More energy? Better focus? Sick less often? Win-win-win!
Look for Plant-Forward Choices
Here’s one habit that always makes the grade: Putting more plants on your plate. More than a passing food trend, plant-forward eating has been shown to help you maintain a healthy weight while lowering the risk of heart disease and other conditions.
ASU has embraced the plant-forward movement with its Engrained Café, which focuses on sustainable dishes featuring plant-based ingredients. The meals are colorful, creative, and always changing.
Executive Chef Rita French has taken her role to heart: “We teach our daughter about fruits and vegetables. I’m feeding her what I prepare in my restaurant for other people’s kids, and I’m really proud of that.”
Start with one or two meals a week, giving plants a starring role and going easy on the meat. Fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, beans, lentils, and seeds are all fair game. And don’t worry; you’ll still get plenty of the protein your body needs!
Expand Your Palate with Local Offerings
Choosing fresh produce does more than benefit your health. It can also inspire you to try something new every day and expand your palate. A former nursing student turned farmer, Janna, grows some of ASU’s produce and is helping us help you do just that.
Janna partners with us to increase the fruits, vegetables and whole grains on ASU’s menu. Her hard work is transformed into innovative, mouth-watering menu options like crispy cauliflower wings and futomaki vegetable rolls. “[ASU and Aramark] have really risen to the task of getting the kids to eat things that you’d never see on a school lunch menu,” she says.
Janna’s nursing background gives her even more appreciation for what happens to her crops once they leave the land. “What you fuel your body with is the most important part of prevention in healthcare … I get a little warm and fuzzy when I think about it.”
Think of it as a ripple effect that starts with every meal or snack you buy in the dining hall (or whip up in your kitchen) and spans outward. These campus practices will serve you well for a lifetime—just like a good education.
Note: Since everyone’s health history and nutritional needs are so different, please make sure that you talk with your doctor and a registered dietitian to get advice about the diet and exercise plan that‘s right for you.