By Kathryn Moore
Due to temptations surrounding college students, such as 24-hour drive-thrus and pizza deliveries, their eating habits are becoming increasingly unhealthy.
“College students have unique schedules and don’t always get into a routine,” said Dr. Julie Powell, associate professor of physical education, wellness and sport. “Their eating habits are all over the map. Eating healthy, balanced meals is not as intentional as it should be.”
To fix this growing epidemic, the American Dietetic Association celebrates “National Nutrition Month” every March. The emphasis is a campaign promoting the importance of nutrition as a key component of good health. The ADA works closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Guide Pyramid to supply Americans with nutrition knowledge, allowing them to make better decisions when it comes to individual diets.
“The Food Guide Pyramid is a great starting point,” Powell said. “The website, www.mypyramid.gov, allows you to put in your age, your gender and your activity level.”
From there, the website will generate a personalized suggested caloric intake. Those calories are then divided among the different food groups: grains, vegetables, dairy, fruit, protein, and fats and oils.
“The personalized pyramid helps me to keep specific guidelines in mind for my diet,” said Dorian Spencer, senior nursing major. “I try to have food from every food group, and to keep my portion sizes under control.”
The slogan for this year’s national emphasis is “Eat Right with Color,” encouraging the consumption of a variety of colorful foods. It also encourages eating foods from each of the color-coded sections of the Food Guide Pyramid.
“We are a visually driven generation, and focusing on the color helps when choosing healthy foods,” Powell said. “Adding foods with color in your diet will add vitamins and minerals that you may not be getting otherwise.”
Powell said orange or red food, such as sweet potatoes or cantaloupe, are high in antioxidants and will help prevent and fight cancer. Leafy green vegetables are a source of many vitamins, such as vitamin A, vitamin D and iron.
College students seem to pack fatty and fried foods into their diets instead of making healthy choices. Spencer said she tries to stay away from fried foods, but as a college student with a busy schedule, that is sometimes difficult.
“When I eat well, my body feels better, but if I eat a lot of junk food it makes me feel heavy,” Spencer said.
Portion control, another key component of healthy eating, is one of the biggest challenges students face when eating out.
“Our portions that we get when we eat out are not in alignment with the Food Guide Pyramid,” Powell said. “When you go out to eat, I recommend either eating off the appetizer menu or the kid’s menu, because those are actually accurate portion sizes, even for adults.”
Cookbooks, mobile phone applications and websites offer guidance for people who want to improve their eating habits.