UPDATE: I recently ran across a pamphlet called "10 Healthy Eating Tips for the Harried College Student," published by the company that produces Sweet 'N Low, the non-nutritive sweetener. These tips were so good that I thought the readers of this column would benefit from them. Since all of us are pressed for time, we often develop bad habits like skipping meals or eating too often in fast-food restaurants. The guidelines below may help you get started on a better eating program:
1. Eat a good breakfast. Studies show that skipping breakfast detracts from scholastic (or job) achievement. If you don't like traditional breakfast foods, it's okay to substitute other foods that you do enjoy eating such as soup or sandwiches or rice pudding.2. If you must eat fast foods, choose wisely. The best choices are low-fat sandwiches, baked potato, clear soups and green salads. Avoid high-fat offerings like french fries, fried chicken and fish, oversize or double burgers. Choose juice or low-fat milk instead of shakes.
3. Keep healthful snacks on hand so if hunger strikes during a late-night study (or work) session, you won't be tempted by vending-machine candy or chips. Possibilities include fresh or dried fruit, nuts or seeds, unbuttered popcorn, rice cakes or whole-wheat crackers spread thinly with peanut butter. If you have a refrigerator, consider raw vegetables with low-fat yogurt or cottage cheese dip.
4. Eat plenty of foods that are rich in calcium. People in their late teens and early 20s (especially women) need to build up stores of calcium in their bodies to prevent osteoporosis in later life. If you don't like milk, try to include ample amounts of yogurt, low-fat cheese and leafy green vegetables in your diet.
5. If you need to lose weight, do it sensibly. Diets that promise quick weight loss (more than 2 to 3 pounds a week) or that have excessive or insufficient amounts of particular nutrients (such as high protein diets) can be harmful to your health. The only safe and effective way to lose weight is to eat a balanced diet (low in fat and sugar) and exercise.
6. Sugar provides calories in your diet but few other nutrients, and it contributes to tooth decay. Consider sweetening some foods with diet sweetener instead of sugar.
7. The cafeteria or restaurant salad bar can be either an asset or a detriment to your diet depending on how you choose from it. Avoid creamy dressing, bacon bits, potato or macaroni salad.
8. If you drink alcohol, keep in mind that it supplies calories but has no nutritional value. It also contributes to other health problems.
9. Drink lots of water. Your body needs at least eight glasses a day, and if you exercise vigorously, you may need more. If you don't like plain water, try plain seltzer or herbal tea.
10. Whenever possible, prepare your own meals and snacks. They're bound to be better for you (and taste better) than processed foods or food from the deli or fast-food restaurant.