As classes begin and schedules fill up, many students tend to push aside scheduled eating times and resort to grabbing what’s convenient. Unbalanced and unhealthy eating, however, can have negative physical, mental and emotional consequences.
Doctor Susan Fullmer, a BYU professor in the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Food Science, gives students some tips to establish better eating habits.
“A balanced diet takes some planning,” Fullmer said. “Without a plan, we make poor decisions and end up eating whatever is convenient or quick.”
Convenient foods could include fast food or different options from vending machines, which usually do not provide much-needed nutrients. In order to avoid these less healthy options, Fullmer suggested students pre-plan meals.
“When students plan when and what they eat beforehand, their plans will usually end up resulting in a balanced meal,” Fullmer said.
Skipping meals can also be a main factor of feeling tired and unmotivated. When people skip a meal, our body becomes tired as a means to communicate to us that we need to eat. When this tiredness occurs without a set plan, we make poor decisions regarding what to eat.
Kaley Johnson, a student and member of BYU Theatre Ballet, can never miss a meal due to her busy, physically demanding schedule.
“I can’t afford to go without eating a meal because I completely lose my ability to concentrate or perform,” Johnson said. “Eating fruits, vegetables or good carbohydrates before classes or a long rehearsal is always a must.”
Doctor Fullmer also suggests making sure students consistently eat sufficient servings from each food group. Fruits, vegetables and dairy products are important, but even fats and carbohydrates are helpful in moderation to maintain energy levels and stamina.
BYU student Clayton Conley, economics, balances his diet in order to perform better each day.
“Eating correctly and consistently helps me focus on what is most important throughout my day, instead of just focusing on hunger,” Conley said.
Johnson also works to maintain a well-balanced diet because she understands the importance of eating a variety of food.
“I understand that each type of food serves a purpose,” said Johnson. “Some foods are important for energy and some necessary for recovery.”
Often students feel that maximizing their time involves minimizing the time spent on eating meals, but eating a sandwich while walking to class or eating a string cheese while studying never feels completely satisfying.
“There is no need for students be constantly counting calories,” Dr. Fullmer said. “Instead they should concentrate on eating balanced meals with all of the recommended food groups.”
Snacking is important, but taking an allotted time to eat a full meal is necessary for sustaining energy.
“When you sit down and spend some time eating a good meal, you feel so much more invigorated,” Fullmer said. “It only takes five minutes to eat a bowl of cereal in the morning, but it is essential for us to feel awake and energized.”
So whether you’re an average student who burns most of your calories tackling the stairs on campus, or a dancer or athlete practicing multiple hours a day, enjoying three solid meals is important to sustaining energy and remaining focused during the day.
To know how many servings of each of the food groups are recommended and other personalized information on healthy eating, check out the United States Department of Agriculture’s site, choosemyplate.gov.