This story is part of a Scroll series highlighting hunger in Eastern Idaho.
As I sit in the library writing this article, I embarrassingly admit my lunch consists of Gatorade, Goldfish and a Slim Jim beef stick — Sad, I know.
My meal hardly meets nutrition recommendations, completely lacking in anything substantially good for bone density, sight retention or increased energy—things we hope nutritious food brings us.
College can be a difficult period of time to meal plan, get a daily dose of vitamins and eat protein rich foods—normally, an average day on campus looks like my lunch, or the equivalent: ramen noodles with a soda while cramming for the exam before the end of the day.
Breakfast is essentially non-existent—there just isn’t time. And dinner sometimes falls in the celebratory category, or eating out as a reward for a long day of homework and classes.
Typically after an eight-hour day on campus, I’m not rushing in the door excited to make grilled asparagus with whole wheat rice and a slice of unsalted chicken. I default to whatever fast food restaurant is on my way home—or in some instances, I don’t eat at all.
And sadly, I’m not the only college student out there with this nutrition-lacking diet. New York University explains, “Despite the significant implications of healthy eating on overall long-term health, many college students engage in poor dietary habits, such as high intake of fast foods and other foods high in fat, low intake of fruits, vegetables, and dairy, and erratic eating behaviors such as meal skipping.”
In my diet, three major issues contribute to the problem: one, no time to cook, two, money is spent elsewhere and three, convenience. It’s difficult to have open nights where meal prepping, dinner making and money saving can occur. Stopping at the local fast food joint is easier, quicker and more satisfactory than the effort it is to make personal meals at home.
The article continues, “A balanced diet can help students increase energy levels, promote a functioning immune system, improve their ability to cope with stress, and increase concentration and performance in school. Healthy eating is influenced by a variety of factors. For students in particular, factors influencing dietary habits include time, availability of healthy options, friends’ eating habits, and nutritional knowledge.”
So how can this ideology be altered?
As I mentioned before, it’s difficult to meal prep, but working to find a day where meals throughout the week are written down can prove to be beneficial. Going to the grocery store with a purpose and not perusal can also help to decrease the running total at the register.
The National Health Service explains, “Most of us should eat more starchy foods: try to include at least one starchy food with each main meal. Some people think starchy foods are fattening, but gram for gram the carbohydrate they contain provides fewer than half the calories of fat. … Keep an eye on the fats you add when you’re cooking or serving these types of foods because that’s what increases the calorie content. For example, oil on chips, butter on bread and creamy sauces on pasta. Finding the lowest marked items on groceries instead of looking toward name brands can also aid in the financial aspect of meal prepping. Limiting fast food intake to a suitable amount throughout the month can also assist. Finding recipes that meet daily nutrition intakes can also be a wonderful way to increase the quality of our meals.”
For now, I’ll turn in the Gatorade and Goldfish for some better, health conscious options that’ll help me in the long run.