You take your first step into Gracie’s, the main all-you-can-eat dining hall. The scent of delicious french fries, juicy chicken fingers, and melting brownies permeates. Suddenly, a dark shadow looms overhead. The freshman 15 (or 30, or 45) giggles menacingly, just waiting for you to fall into its clutches. How do you avoid falling prey to this common college downfall?
When I first came to RIT, I was exhilarated by the availability of food - ice cream! pizza! hamburgers! within grabbing distance! Covered by my meal plan! AHHH! ...After a month, I began to feel sluggish and low-energy. Even if you’re eating a lot, if you’re not eating the right things, you are essentially starving yourself. Gradually, I began to switch out my bad choices with healthier options and utilized the resources and variety of nutritious foods RIT dining has to offer. Choosing healthy options in college is definitely possible, and nutritious choices contribute to a healthier mental, emotional, and physical state. This article was written with help from the Dining Services website: check it out! https://www.rit.edu/fa/diningservices/smartnutrition/smartseals.html
Smart Nutrition: This nutrition program offers a variety of resources for you!
Smart Seals: nutritional labels on grab-and-go foods, daily specials.
Allergens are listed on bottom
Healthy option seal Vegetarian
≤ 600 calories No meat/meat-based products
≤ 20 g total fat May contain animal by-products
≤ 8 g saturated fat Vegan
≤ 800 mg sodium No animal by-products
NetNutrition: an comprehensive online tool with nutritional information which lists allergens and other information for the menus of many dining places.
Regardless of whether or not you track the food you eat, NetNutrition is a great resource to approximate nutritional intake.
Ask for What You Want:
Don’t be afraid to be “picky," or to tell the people making your food what you want! I used to be afraid to speak up when ordering, but the truth of the matter is that it’s YOUR health and YOU are the one paying for the meal.
Examples of things to ask for:
Turkey sub contents wrapped in lettuce rather than bread
Light mayonnaise and/or telling them the amount of condiments you want
Skim milk and/or sugar-free flavor in coffee
Ask for more vegetables
Ask for egg-whites (Gracie’s, Brick City Cafe)
Ask for less oil used! (some places may not do this)
Ask for dressing/condiments on the side instead (example: Ritz grilled salads)
Try New Things:
Eating healthy doesn’t just mean eating salads from Gracie’s every day! Don’t be afraid to try things like sushi, omelettes, wraps, etc. One thing I’ve gotten especially good at is finding healthier versions of my favorite foods. For example, my most recent discovery was the garlic pesto wrap from Gracie’s. Ask for the same fillings you would put on a sub, but substitute the sub roll with the wrap. It tastes almost exactly the same, but with less calories!
Drinks, Drinks, Drinks!:
Drinks can be one of the most secretly harmful elements of nutrition...especially with the drink fountains available at most on-campus dining locations. Even things like juice can add excess sugar and calories to your diet. Try to drink as much water as possible: it defeats thirst, has no calories, and has SO many health benefits! If you are in the habit of drinking soda at every meal, start out by substituting water for soda at one meal per day. Caffeinated beverages like coffee/energy drinks can also be dangerous for college students. If you must drink coffee (me), stick to drinks without a lot of cream or sugar. One of my favorite drinks is a maple latte from Artesano’s, but I discovered skim milk in the latte tastes the same as whole milk! You could also try substituting tea for at least one of your daily coffee cups. Try to limit energy drink consumption as much as possible. In fact, once I began eating healthier, I found myself to be more alert and need to consume less caffeine as a result.
One of the biggest rewards I’ve found with changing my eating habits is treating myself. When I changed from eating ice cream at Gracie’s 3-4 times a week to once in awhile, the treat felt much more rewarding! So, of course, every once in awhile I eat that juicy burger or savor those Brick City hash browns. Nutrition is all about balance. I genuinely feel like these treats taste better when eaten occasionally and I feel much more healthy and alert after making these dietary changes. Enjoy your college experience and treat your body well in the process!
*Disclaimer: I am not a registered dietitian. I am just a college student who is sharing the dietary changes which worked well for me personally.