Category Archives: Healthy Eating

Healthy eating in college is an important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Eat more fruits and veggies

According to a recent student health survey at University Park, only 4.4% of undergraduate students reported eating the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables (Penn State University, 2018, American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment).  Look at this guide from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to learn about how many cups are recommended for your age.  You will find simple suggestions to help you eat more fruits and veggies.

You can also sign up for a free session with a registered dietitian or talk with a peer educator in the nutrition Wellness Service.  Read more about these free resources.

Decoding Vitamins and Supplements

If you have decided to make eating a balanced healthy diet a priority, you have taken an amazing step toward improving your health. However, it can be difficult to evaluate if you’re getting enough vitamins and minerals to achieve optimal health. There are more supplements available in supermarkets and drug stores than ever before. Do you really need them? 

According to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, “Nutritional needs should be met primarily from foods. Individuals should aim to meet their nutrient needs through healthy eating patterns that include nutrient-dense foods” (1). Exceeding recommended levels of some vitamins and minerals is not only unnecessary but can also cause health issues (1).  

Supplements can be beneficial in certain circumstances where an individual is lacking vitamins and minerals caused by some health conditions.  For example, if someone is lactose intolerant and cannot eat dairy, a calcium supplement will likely be beneficial to help them meet their calcium needs.  Your doctor can order tests to determine if taking a vitamin or mineral supplement would benefit you. Only use supplements if your doctor has recommended them (2).  

If you’re concerned that your diet is not providing you with proper nutrition, consider scheduling an appointment with a registered dietitian. Schedule an appointment online through myUHS or call 814-863-0461. 

References: 

1.        “Vitamins Minerals and Supplements: Do You Need to Take Them.” Edited by Taylor Wolfram, Eat Right. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics., 6 July 2018, https://www.eatright.org/food/vitamins-and-supplements/dietary-supplements/vitamins-minerals-and-supplements-do-you-need-to-take-them  

2.       Vitamin Supplements: Health or Hoax? American Heart Association, 12 June 2015, http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Vitamin-Supplements-Healthy-or-Hoax_UCM_432104_Article.jsp#.W0YL7opKiUk  

 

Healthy Eating on a Budget

Buy frozen? Buy fresh? But what about your budget? You can eat healthy even on a budget. Here are four tips that can help you eat healthy while keeping your finances in mind.  

1. Plan before you shop. 

Check what food you already have at home. This will help you know what you need to buy in the grocery store. Based on your current food supplies, plan your meals for the week.  Make a grocery list to make sure you do not buy items you do not need.   

2. Frozen or canned vegetables and fruits are a good option. 

Frozen and canned veggies and fruits have almost the same amount of nutrients as fresh ones. Frozen or canned veggies and fruits cost less and they have a longer shelf life which allows you to shop less frequently. Read the nutrition label carefully and look for the low-sodium or no salt/sugar added options.

3. Shop after you have eaten.

Don’t shop when you’re hungry. If you are hungry when you shop, you will most likely buy food that isn’t on your list. For best results, it is a good to feel satiated when you arrive at the grocery store.

4. Use your resources.  

Coupons can be an easy way to save money. Join your favorite grocery store’s loyalty program to receive special discounts and offers. Check the availability of online coupons frequently. Buy the things you need, not the things you want.   

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Research indicates consuming Omega-3 fatty acids can decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease. Omega-3 fatty acids also play a role in brain development. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in foods like fish, flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts.  There are 3 main types of omega-3 fatty acids:  

There are 3 main types of omega-3 fatty acids (1):
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) 

ALA is found in plant oils such as flaxseed, soybean, and canola oils. Some ALA is converted into EPA and DHA, but only in small amounts. DHA and EPA are utilized easily by the body, which is why they are considered the best way to increase intake of Omega-3 (2). DHA and EPA are found in fish and other seafood. Algal oil is a comparable vegan source of DHA and EPA (3). 

Experts recommend consuming at least 2 servings of fish each week to meet recommended intakes of Omega-3 fatty acids.  Another way to increase Omega-3’s is to add walnuts, flaxseed, and chia seeds to your usual snacks or meals throughout the week.  The daily adequate intake of ALA for men age 19-59 is 1.6 and 1.1 g for women (2).  Recommended amounts of EPA and DHA have not been established. Talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian nutritionist if you are interested in taking a supplement.  

Written by Kate Quick, RD 

References  

  1. https://www.eatright.org/food/vitamins-and-supplements/types-of-vitamins-and-nutrients/what-are-omega-3-fatty-acids 
  2. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-Consumer/ 
  3. http://www.berkeleywellness.com/supplements/other-supplements/article/algal-oil-omega-3s 

Nutrition and Sleep

Many students give up sleep to meet the demands of a busy schedule. The overall effect negatively impacts productivity. Do you have trouble falling asleep? Do you wake up frequently throughout the night?  What stands between you and the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night?  Could it be your nutrition? 

Eating before bed can affect how well you sleep during the night (1). Heavy, high-fat foods may cause bloating and stomach pain that can keep you from a restful sleep. Spicy foods may cause heartburn or indigestion which can keep you up at night. However, going to sleep on an empty stomach can also cause a sleepless night. If you’re hungry, try a light snack, like a bowl of cereal with low-fat milk, about an hour before going to bed (2).  

In addition to decreased energy and productivity, current research links inadequate sleep with weight gain and type 2 diabetes. Although exact causes are unclear, one theory for weight gain is that inadequate sleep disrupts hormone levels that regulate appetite and food intake (3). This means that a lack of sleep may cause you to eat. 

Are you interested in learning more about sleep or nutrition?  Health Promotion and Wellness offers free one-on-one wellness services to students.  Topics include stress and time management, sleep, physical activity, nutrition, healthy relationships and sexual health.  HealthWorks peer educators provide the services.  These services are FREE and are in the Wellness Suite, 020 IM Building.  To schedule an appointment, call 814-863-0461. 

References 

  1. https://share.upmc.com/2015/07/is-eating-before-bed-okay/ 
  2. https://share.upmc.com/2015/11/is-it-bad-to-sleep-after-a-meal/ 
  3. https://www.eatright.org/health/weight-loss/overweight-and-obesity/how-sleep-habits-affect-healthy-weight