Nutrition is as important to your overall health as it is to the success of your college career. Take a cooking class, tour a grocery store, or schedule a nutrition counseling appointment with a Registered Dietitian at Gritman Medical Center.
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Eating plant-based foods, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds is the base of most healthy eating patterns. Here are some specific tips to eat your way to good nutrition:
- Taste the Rainbow – Include a variety of fruits and vegetables throughout your day. Most adults need a minimum of 2 cups of fruit and 3 or more cups of vegetables every day. Fruits and vegetables contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that provide necessary nutrients to keep your body functioning optimally. All forms of produce count, so stock up on a variety of fresh, frozen, canned, or even dried fruits and vegetables. Add fruit to your breakfast, incorporate vegetables into your lunch and dinners, and choose fruits or vegetables as an easy and portable snack.
- Choose Whole Grains – High in fiber, B-vitamins, and folate, whole grains are tasty and filling. Choose pasta and bread products that have 100% whole wheat on the label for optimal nutrition. Other types of whole grains include: oatmeal, barley, whole corn (including popcorn!), quinoa, wild and brown rice, buckwheat, millet, wheat berries, and spelt. Eating a variety of whole grains can keep your meals interesting and can even reduce your risk for cancer, diabetes, heart disease. Make at least half of your grains whole grains.
- Eat More Heart-Healthy Fats – Olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, and fish can provide heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and unsaturated fats. Limit saturated fat from animal products (butter, sausage, cream) and refined carbohydrates (cookies, fried food). Instead of eating a low-fat diet, replace saturated fats with hearty healthy fats. This means replacing margarine, shortening, butter, cheese, and processed meat with beneficial fat from fish, avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil.
- Protein Power – Protein provides your body with essential amino acids for muscle repair and recovery. Make sure to eat protein throughout your day, versus at a single meal or snack. Choose leaner meats and poultry, eggs, and low-fat milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese. Try to include vegetarian protein sources, such as: nuts and seeds, beans, and tofu or edamame.
- Find Your Balance – There is no perfect diet or magic supplement for good nutrition. Instead, remember that every time you eat you are providing your body with fuel for daily living. Fuel your body with regular meals and snacks on a consistent schedule to prevent energy-loss, poor concentration, and a compromised immune system. High quality foods, beverages, and dietary variety keep your body functioning at its best.
There are many strategies to maximize your food budget and eat well.
- Make a Plan – Create a weekly plan for meals and snacks. Use this plan as a guide for your shopping list. This is a major way to save money at the checkout stand and keep you organized during a busy semester. Make sure you have specific items in mind for breakfast, lunch, dinner and a few daily snacks. This will prevent last minute trips to the grocery or convenience store and help with sticking to your food budget. To stick to your list, avoid shopping when you are hungry or tired, which can set you up for impulse purchases.
- Opt for Whole – Convenience foods, like frozen entrées and snacks, individually bagged produce, instant rice, instant macaroni and cheese, and boxed meals are significantly more expensive than foods made from scratch. By taking the time to buy and prepare whole-foods that are less processed, you can save money. Buying in bulk, especially whole-grains, coffee, nuts, and seeds can also lead to savings. Stock up on whole-food staples for easy meals, such as: canned tomatoes, frozen vegetables, canned tuna, beans, brown rice, and whole-grain pasta.
- Be Label Savvy – Read the label and ingredient lists and pay attention to unit pricing, which can help you compare prices and find the best value. Purchasing store brands instead of a national brand is usually a better value. Look up and down when grocery shopping, since the most expensive products tend to be at eye level. Make sure to also check expiration and sell-by dates to purchase the freshest items possible and prevent food spoilage.
- Cook Once…Eat Many Times – Did you know it often takes the same amount of time to make a single serving of a meal versus making a double or triple batch? Make a large batch of soup, casserole, pasta or any other favorite dish and have leftovers available for easy meals in your fridge or frozen individually in containers. Preparing leftovers makes weeknight meals affordable and convenient.
- Dine In, Save Big – Dining out on fast food and at restaurants can add up quickly, taking funds away from your total food budget. Enjoy eating out occasionally. Save even more money by dining out for lunch instead of dinner, using coupons, or finding restaurant specials. Opting to brew your own coffee at home versus purchasing a daily latte can lead to big savings. Dining at home is the ultimate cost saver, usually including smaller portions and a much smaller price tag.
- Choose My Plate – Helping consumers create healthy diets and assessing nutritional needs. Resources maintained by the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy & Promotion.
- Oldways – A nonprofit food and nutrition education organization teaching techniques for good health through scientific and practical programs.
- "Good and Cheap" cookbook by Leanne Brown – For students on tight budgets, this free PDF cookbook download is full of great healthy recipes.