Last semester I took the most useful class I've ever taken so far (no, it was not statistics). It was a nutrition class in which I learned all about proper eating habits, what happens to your body when you eat different foods, food safety, and consumerism. I found out so much about how I should be eating in order for my body to function at its best, and it was really eye-opening. Here are the 10 most important things I learned in those four months.

1. You can make healthy choices when eating out, even at fast food restaurants.

chicken, salad, meat, lettuce, vegetable
Michelle Miller

This is more obvious at some restaurants more than others (hello, Cheesecake Factory and the SkinnyLicious menu), but healthier choices can be made at fast food places as well. For example, if you're buying a bagel from Dunkin' Donuts, you can get a multigrain bagel and ask for less cream cheese. This doesn't mean that this is the healthiest choice that can be made, but it is certainly healthier than other choices at Dunkin' Donuts.

2. The more volume per calorie a food is, the more filling it will be.

popcorn, corn, salt, caramel, cereal, butter, kettle corn
Sara Carte

This one makes sense if you think about it. Something like popcorn has a lot of air in it, so even if you eat a lot of it, it's not as many calories as a more dense food. My professor used this example in an article she wrote for "An apple that would fit in the palm of your hand (about 3 inches) is a mere 75 calories. Because over 85 percent of its weight is from water (0 calories) and fiber (0 calories), it is considered a low-density food as it is low in calories per bite. However, a slice of apple pie, which could also fit in the palm of your hand, has calorie-dense fat and sugar added, along with the apples, so will serve up about 300 calories a slice (that's without the a la mode part).  You would have to eat four apples to consume the equivalent of the calories in the pie slice. Because of the apple's volume, you would likely get 'full' after chomping on an apple or two, and thus, consume less calories overall."

3. You don't need to spend a lot of money to eat healthy food.

Cooking, Healthy, homemade, Cucumber Avocado Salad, salad, Side Salad, avocado, pan-seared salmon, college life, dorm life
Amy Dong

On the first day of class, my professor brought in two bags filled with food. One bag had healthy food (fruits, vegetables, lean meats, etc.) and the other bag had unhealthy food (Goldfish, chips, and lots of junk food). She labelled each item with the price and had people pull items out, adding together the prices. After both bags were empty, (each had the same number of items in them) it turned out that the bag of healthy food was less money than the junk food.

This attempted to debunk the myth that eating healthy is too expensive. If anything, it proved that you do not need to buy all natural, organic products for them to be good for you

4. As my professor always said, fruits and veggies fill you up without filling you out.

apple, juice, sweet, pasture
Santina Renzi

This was literally a question on two out of three of our exams. And repeated in about 75% of our classes. So, if you’re hungry, grab a piece of fruit or eat a vegetable; it’ll satiate you faster than junk food and is better for your body.

5. People tend to eat like the person they're eating with.

coffee, smoothie bowls, girls smiling, laughing, eating smoothies, smoothie, Ocean, Summer
Julia Gilman

If you're going to eat with someone who you know eats more than you, then lunch is a great meal to eat with them. This is because that person is less likely to eat as much as they would at dinner. They also may not have enough time to eat as much as they would during a bigger meal like dinner. 

6. Some changes will be coming to the nutrition facts panel to make assessing the nutritional value of food easier.

By January 2021 all companies will need to be printing the new label. Some key changes are the inclusion of an "added sugars" section, the removal of the "calories from fat" section, and the actual amounts of minerals like vitamin D and calcium will be listed with the daily value percentage. My favorite changes are that any food that can generally be consumed in one sitting, such as a can of soda, must list the entire package as one serving.

Secondly, if the food would typically be consumed in multiple sittings, there will be a requirement for a dual panel — one panel listing the nutrition facts for one serving and the other listing the nutrition facts for the entire package. Read this from the FDA for more information.

7. Portion sizes have increased a lot over time.

bun, bacon, cheese, beef
Krizza Santucci

This seems to apply to just about everything. The most obvious one is probably hamburgers, but this also applies to something more surprising — plates. There is now physically more room for food than there used to be, so it’s very important to make sure you’re properly measuring out your portions. Use this guide that shows you how to measure out your food with your hand.

8. Get your nutrition information from a registered dietitian.

The internet is not a good resource by any means for your nutrition information. This isn't  just because anybody can post anything on the internet, but also because everyone’s body works differently. What works for one person may not work for someone else. Secondly, don’t rely solely on your general physician or any other doctor who is not a registered dietitian (they must be registered) for your nutrition information. It would be like going to a neurologist for an broken leg; the neurologist doesn’t specialize in fixing broken bones the same way your physician doesn’t specialize in nutrition. 

9. Using a meat thermometer is the only true way to know if meat is fully cooked. 

You can’t eye it. The difference between slightly uncooked chicken and fully cooked chicken doesn’t look any different. The main temperatures you should remember are 160 degrees Fahrenheit (for meat) and 165 degrees Fahrenheit (for poultry and leftovers). For a more complete list of temperatures, check out this FDA website, and learn how to properly use a meat thermometer.

10. Some of the leading causes of death can be prevented with a healthy diet.

Cooking, Healthy, homemade, broccoli, Sauteed, mushrooms, soy sauce, College, college cooking, dorm
Amy Dong

The top 10 leading causes of death (in order from most prevalent to least prevalent) are heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, accidents, stroke, Alzheimer's, diabetes, flu, kidney disease, and intentional harm. Of those, heart disease, some cancers, strokes, and diabetes can be prevented by eating healthy food an exercising.

Keep in mind that these are not my suggestions, only things that stuck with me during my class. You should always consult a registered dietitian if you're considering making a significant change if your diet, or if you simply have any questions. Secondly, I definitely recommend taking a nutrition class if you have the chance. It caused me to change some habits for the better and taught me about the complexity of food consumption, which is something that more people should be aware of.