Every student enters the school year hoping to debunk the myth that it’s impossible to stay healthy in college. Many of us have genuine plans to schedule gym time between classes or load up on vegetables at every meal, but ultimately stress from class, work and extracurriculars quickly hinders these goals.
According to Jessica Janc, the nutrition director at Premier Fitness Camp in Carlsbad, Calif., it is important to remember that eating healthily is not mindless, but it doesn’t have to be overly complicated either. “Just shoot for balance at each meal,” Janc says. “Get plenty of protein with healthy carbohydrates and plenty of vegetables.”
Janc emphasizes the importance of making careful adjustments to your diet that do not sacrifice flavor and satisfaction. Her first suggestion isn’t to cut anything out of meals, but to replace certain items with similar, but healthier alternatives. She recommends Greek yogurt, for example, which is higher in protein than regular yogurt and has a comparable number of calories. It is also a great substitute in recipes that call for sour cream, mayonnaise or cream cheese. The unique thickness of Greek yogurt won’t take away from the fluffy and satisfying texture you crave and will add a substantial amount of calcium to dishes.
Part of creating a more balanced diet is experimenting in the kitchen and learning which ingredients work in your favorite recipes to maintain the same flavors and textures you love. If you typically make chicken salad with mayonnaise, try mashing up an avocado with Greek yogurt instead. The combination of avocado and yogurt maintains the same amount of creaminess but adds healthy fats and protein not found in mayonnaise. Opt for almond butter, which is high in unsaturated fat, instead of full-fat cream cheese to smear on top of bagels. Janc also suggests replacing butter with applesauce or olive oil in some baked goods. These food substitutions are not necessarily lower in calories, but they’re high in flavor and nutrition, making them alternatives that shouldn’t be hard to work into your daily routine.
When it comes to drinking, Janc suggests red wine, vodka or tequila instead of sugary drinks, since your body races to convert excess sugar into fat. Still, as the old adage goes, everything in moderation. Allowing yourself to party on the weekend and avoiding drinking during the week is a realistic compromise. Making poor choices during the middle of the week can make it harder to follow Janc’s ultimate advice: “Stay active and be mindful.”
“What you eat now does matter, for energy, brain function and weight control,” Janc concludes. Finding balance in your diet is just one component of living a healthy lifestyle. It’s important to find a way of eating that contributes to your health and happiness and most importantly, helps you balance all of the other areas of your life.