It’s been a long semester and you’ve studied hard. Now it’s time to cap off the semester by doing well on final exams and projects. A lot of students associate finals week with all-nighters, constant studying, and plenty of coffee. These behaviors can actually be detrimental to your academic performance. Here are ways to take care of your mind and body so that you can do your best on finals.
Sleep deprivation affects not only your energy level and mood, but also your ability to concentrate, learn, and focus. As finals week approaches, maintain a regular sleep pattern and aim for 7-9 hours per night. For more restful sleep, avoid alcohol and stop drinking caffeine at least six hours prior to your typical bed time.
- Get your nutrients
Antioxidants from fruits and vegetables help keep your brain healthy. Throw an apple or a banana in your backpack before you head out to study or have a salad with your next slice of pizza. Most importantly, do not skip meals.
- Be active
Physical activity is not just good for your body, but also for your brain. Endorphins released in the brain during physical activity can reduce tension, improve mood, and increase brainpower. Take a walk, turn your music on and dance, or take some time to stretch. If you exercise regularly, keep it up! You’ll reap the benefits more than ever this week.
Trying to lose weight because of a medical condition? Consider visiting a dietitian in the Nutrition Clinic at University Health Services (UHS). UHS has a Weight Management Program that is specifically designed to help students who need to lose weight due to health needs. So far, students who have enrolled in the program find it rewarding.
Losing weight takes time, so it’s normal to question your ability to continue to make positive change. The following strategies will help increase your chances of successful weight loss.
- Find your inner motivation: find the “thing” that will give you the burning drive to stick to your weight-loss plan
- Set realistic goals: make small changes every day that will lead to big results in the long run.
- Remember your priorities: set priorities that support a healthy lifestyle and that promote lasting change.
- Focus on progress, not perfection: see every snack and every meal as a new opportunity to make a healthy choice.
- Celebrate achievement: recognize and be proud of your progress by using mini rewards. For example, buy yourself fitness gear; go to a sporting event, concert or movie with friends when you consistently eat 4-5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily for a month.
- Patience: remember, evidence shows that people who lose weight gradually and steadily (about 1 to 2 pounds per week) are more successful at keeping weight off(1).
(1) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cdc.gov/healthyweight/losing_weight/index.html
Do the holidays create stress for you? Do you feel pressure to overeat at meals and parties? Here are ways you can incorporate a variety of nutritious foods and activity during this busy time of year:
- Keep healthy snacks with you, for example, fruit and cheese, peanut butter and crackers, yogurt
- Eat consistently to avoid getting over-hungry
- Drink sparkling water instead of eggnog, beer and mixed drinks
- Bring a healthy dish to share at parties
- Eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full
- Make time to exercise. It’s a great way to relieve stress
- Go for a walk before or after a holiday party or get together
- Fill up on nutrient dense foods including fruit, vegetables, whole grain breads and crackers, lean meats and cheeses
Eating fruits and vegetables is a great way to give your body energy and vitamins to help ward off illness. In addition, most fruits and vegetables are low in fat and calories and are filling. As a college student you may wonder how can I eat more fruits and vegetables when I am busy and also on a budget?
Tips for getting more fruits and vegetables:
- Shop for fruits and vegetables when they are in season. Look to see when your favorites are in season
- Cook most frozen vegetables in the microwave in less than five minutes. They are just as nutritious as fresh veggies. Here are tips for healthy ways to cook fruits and vegetables
- Try different cooking methods of vegetables including grilling, roasting or baking
- Keep fruit in your backpack at all times for a nutrient rich snack
- Grab a piece of fruit with you leave the dining hall
- Plan meals around a vegetable as the main dish
- Make healthy fruit dips with peanut butter and yogurt
- Make nutritious dips for veggies including hummus or yogurt with herbs
Source: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/fruits_vegetables.html
Are you fed up with “diets” and realize that they just don’t work? If so, you’ll be happy to know that research also shows diets don’t work (Mann, 2007)[i]. Diets often eliminate food groups and cause an imbalance in nutrient intake. Typically, diets are too restrictive to maintain on a regular basis. They leave people feeling deprived, which in turn back fires and can cause people to overindulge in the foods they were avoiding. If you want to make healthy changes to your diet, reject the diet mentality and embrace intuitive eating.
Intuitive eating (Bush, 2014)[ii] means listening to your body. Honor your hunger by eating. And respect when you feel full. Challenge the food police that categorize food as “good” or “bad” and instead, enjoy all food in moderation. Make food choices that reinforce your health and make you feel well. When you are bored, stressed, or feel emotional, instead of using food as your comfort, engage in an activity that will help you manage your stress and work through your emotions. Respect your body so you can feel good about it and be the best version of you.
Want to learn more about intuitive eating? Read Intuitive Eating, A Revolutionary Program that Works by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. You can browse through the book in the student resource area in 201 Student Health Center.
[i] Mann T, Tomiyama AJ, Westling E, et al. Medicare’s search for effective obesity treatments: diets are not the answer. Am Psychol. 2007;62:220–233.
[ii] Bush H, Rossy L, Mintz L, & Schopp (2014). Eat for Life: A Worksite Feasibility Study of a Novel Mindfulness-based Intuitive Eating Intervention. Am J Health Promotion (July/Aug):380-388.
Did you know there is a Nutrition Clinic specifically for Penn State students at the Student Health Center? Check it out and become a champion of your health! A Registered Dietitian will meet with you to discuss your goals and personal health needs. These needs may include, but are not limited to, digestive disorders, disordered eating, vegan or vegetarian diets, general health and wellness, weight management, nutrition and exercise, and diabetes. Make an appointment online through myUHS or call 814-863-0461. The cost is $28.00/hour.
Refuel, replenish, and stay hydrated. We’ve all heard this advice about what to do after a hard workout. So what do you reach for after exercise: water, Gatorade, tablespoons of sugar?
Sports drinks have been popular for quite some time, but in recent years dietitians have started questioning their value because of the high sugar content. Gatorade has approximately 20 grams of sugar in 12 fluid ounces. Similarly, Powerade has 21 grams of sugar in 12 ounces.[i] Both Gatorade and Powerade make lower sugar options, which contain 12 grams of sugar in 20 fl oz (G2)[ii] and 0 grams of sugar in Powerade Zero. Consuming any type of sports drink on a daily basis will easily boost your daily intake for added sugar. The US dietary guidelines recommend that added sugar should be limited to less than 10% of calories consumed each day. Possibly it’s time for a less sugary hydration drink.
Maybe it’s time for an organic change. Food and drink analyst, Beth Bloom[iii], states that individuals tend to purchase organic products because they think the items are healthier. But that might not be the case when it comes to sports drinks; organic sports drinks don’t mean less sugar. According to dietitians, sugar is sugar, even if it’s organic. In a recent NPR story, Haemi Choi, a sports medicine doctor at Loyola University Medical Center[iv] , explains that organic cane sugar is not healthier, or nutritionally better, than the form of sugar found in regular sports drinks.
So what’s the best way to stay hydrated? Choi suggests water.