Academic stress and limited time can often mean good nutrition goes out the window. But did you know that eating right can improve your performance, reduce stress and give you more energy? Here are some guidelines to get you started.
- Start your day off right with a nutritious breakfast! Breakfast gives you the energy to get you going after a long night without food. Focus on protein and forego the donut or sugary cereal: Scrambled, poached, hard-boiled or in a frittata, eggs are always a great morning option. Other good choices are fruit and nuts, or a smoothie made with plain Greek yogurt
- Focus on fresh unprocessed foods such as vegetables, fruits, meats, nuts, seeds, eggs, dairy and whole grains. Filling yourself up with wholesome choices leaves less room for unhealthy options.
- Eat a variety of foods and keep your plate colorful. Try a new food or recipe weekly to expand your options and increase your nutrient intake.
- Avoid foods that cause blood sugar spikes and subsequent crashes, especially in times of stress. You will experience energy lows during the crash, and this cycle can set you up for overeating. This includes sugar and candy, processed grains such as white bread and white rice, sodas and juices.
- Don’t be afraid of fat! Not only is fat a necessary component of each cell in our body, but dietary fat also contributes to feelings of fullness while helping to absorb certain nutrients. Cook with healthy oils such as olive and coconut; snack on nuts and seeds; add avocado and olives to your salads; and eat the yolk as well as the egg white.
- Moderate your intake of “extras” such as sweets and alcohol. While small amounts can be part of a balanced and healthy diet, they should not contribute significantly to your daily calories.
- Balance your intake of calories from food and beverages with calories burned through physical activity.
- Prepare for hunger to strike during inconvenient times, such as a day full of classes. Keep items such as nuts and fruit, and trail mix bars. If you have time in the morning, pack a small sandwich, some peanut butter and celery, hummus and pita, etc. All of these options are easy to eat in class and provide some protein along with carbohydrates and fat.
Whenever possible, construct your lunch and dinner plate to resemble these proportions: • ½ veggies (salad, cooked veggies or both) • ¼ protein (meat, tofu), ¼ starch (rice, potato, pasta, bread, beans) This is an easy way to make sure you are getting a balance of nutrients at each meal, while at the same time filling you up.