Food for thought

Snow falls, somehow it doesn’t melt boy when it hits you, why? / All this life I’ve been drowned by confusion…

With the school year winding down, I’m finishing up my last few programs. Last week, I held a program called “Food for Thought” to share some easy tips for eating healthy even as a busy college student. One of the most common complaints I hear (and admittedly partake in at times) from people who live on campus is that there is “nothing to eat in the caf.” That’s of course a hyperbole, but it’s true that a lot of things the cafeteria has to offer are unhealthy – pizza, burgers, fries, grilled cheese…it becomes quite unappetizing after living here for semesters or maybe even years. However, after living here for almost four semesters now, I have come up with a few little tips and tricks for myself to still eat relatively healthy and balanced meals with what is available.

  • Portion control — Use a smaller plate! It helps you control how much you’re eating because there is simply less available for you to eat. It’s a simple way to reduce your portions and prevent overeating, which is tempting in our cafeteria which is an all-you-care-to-eat operation.
  • Eat with your friends! — I find that when I eat with my friends, I tend to socialize more which makes the time pass quicker. Overall I leave the caf after eating less and I’m less tempted to get up for more food when I’m laughing and talking with my friends.
  • Balance is key — your plate should be about 1/2 fruits and vegetables, 1/4 protein, and 1/4 carbs (whole grain if possible!). It’s easy to just pick up everything in the entree line without much thought to what you’re consuming, but try to balance your plate out with some salad and vegetables! At breakfast, the cafeteria also offers some delicious mixed fruit.
  • Everything in moderation — Sometimes people who diet decide to impulsively cut out all sugar/carbs/gluten/fat from their diet, but that’s not actually realistic or even healthy. You still want to have a healthy balance of different foods, and instead of completely cutting out unhealthy foods, simply choose to eat them in moderation. A burger, pizza, or cookie now and then is not going to kill you. For me, a tactic that has been helpful before is I consciously decide to eat as healthy as possible from Monday to Friday, but I let myself eat almost anything I’d like on the weekends. That’s usually when I’ll go out with friends, and I’ll enjoy myself without worrying as much about eating as healthy as possible.
  • When you’re done eating…LEAVE! — Don’t linger in the caf! You’ll find yourself going back and getting more food when you’re actually already full and don’t realize it. When you’re done with your plate, consider heading out to class, even if it’s a little bit early.
  • Craving alert — Keep some healthy snacks in your room on hand. You don’t want to be relying on late night food runs or vending machine food when you feel burnt out from studying and have cravings for something sweet or salty.Unfortunately, calories still count during finals week and the middle of the night! Consider granola bars, apples with peanut butter (or any other fruit), popcorn (with very little butter and salt), trail mix, and other healthier alternatives to keep in your room for when you know you’ll want something to munch on as you study.
  • Keep a calorie count — this might be more relevant if you are looking to change your weight, whether that means you’re looking to lose some weight or bulk in muscle. Regardless, it may be a good idea to keep a rough estimate of what you’re eating so you have a mental track of whether you’re over/undereating. There’s a bountiful amount of smartphone apps dedicated for this, but my favorite that I have used before is MyFitnessPal. That one also will deduct calories that you exercise!
  • Water water everywhere — Take advantage of all the water fountains that are installed around the school and keep a water bottle handy in your backpack! One of the easiest ways to immediately decrease your calorie count is to substitute all your drinks for water. Cutting out soda (including diet sodas which are full of aspartame and make you crave more sweets), juices, and other sugary drinks and drinking water will decrease cravings. And of course, it’s much healthier for you overall!
  • ….or tea! — A warm cup of tea is also a very healthy alternative! Green tea contains more caffeine than coffee and is usually healthier because of the tendency to add too much cream or sugar to coffee. Also it’s so delightful to wake up with the smell of a warm cup of tea! If you’re not looking for caffeine, there are plenty of non-caffeinated teas you could find in any grocery store or tea shop!

Making these little changes in my dietary habits has helped me remain health conscious and stay fit. Even little switches have been immensely impactful, like only drinking water and tea, or grabbing a banana instead of a cookie, or keeping a count of calories. Unfortunately for my program, it was little bit of poor planning of me to hold it as the same time as some other popular events going on the same night (namely the Nearly Naked Mile hosted by Commons West – which I heard was fantastic! – and a UIC baseball game). As a result, I didn’t have a very good turnout at all – but I still wanted to some of my ideas with other people!  I hope some of these tips might help your meals be a little bit healthier, especially if you eat in the dining halls frequently.

I’m counting down the days…Good luck studying for finals, everyone!


Say the word and I’ll be gone / I told you I was gonna lose you to the blue

(Waste of Time - MØ)

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About Sarah Lee

Hi, I'm Sarah! I am a junior Neuroscience student in GPPA Medicine who is still trying to figure out exactly what I want to do in my life. One day I want to be fluent in Russian and explore Eastern Europe. In my free time, I love running, playing piano and guitar, and reading. I currently live in Courtyard residence hall as a Peer Mentor but my home is in Naperville.

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