Thursday, January 12, 2012

Eating Healthy in a Dorm Setting

Throughout college I never lived in a dorm, so I never had to worry about this. Now that I am staying in a dorm-like setting while visiting Mississippi, it has become a reality for me. While in college it was common knowledge that students living in a dorm ate ramen noodles ALL the time. I am not completely sure why ramen noodles are so popular among dorm students. Maybe it's that ramen noodles are incredibly cheap, or maybe partly because the students' only means of cooking in the dorms are microwaves. Whatever the reason, there are plenty of other options available.

While staying in Mississippi my room consists of a microwave, small refrigerator, a toaster, and counter and cabinet space. At first it took a little thinking on how I would go about eating healthy while staying here. I cook all the time when I am at home, and was not entirely thrilled to have to eliminate fresh seafood and pasta from my shopping list. The restaurants here are fantastic but I know better than to eat at them every day. The food is ok in moderation, and I would go poor very quickly. After getting into the swing of things my grocery list looks something like this:

deli turkey
cheddar cheese slices
Greek yogurt
instant oatmeal
Kashi whole-grain pita chips
whole-grain bread
Kind almond and fruit bars
chocolate milk
Odwalla smoothies
bottled water
Kashi frozen meals
dry roasted almonds
The Laughing Cow mini Baby Bell cheese
Starkist tuna pouches
peanut butter

This list is kind of a modified version of my shopping list while I am home. There is more processed foods on my list then I would like to have, but I am conscious of what they are and try not to go overboard. The processed foods on my list could be a lot worse. I am not an overall fan of frozen meals, but there are some decent ones out there. I like the Kashi Mayan Harvest Bake. It is a vegetarian meal and has 380 mg of sodium. Lately I have been having 3 small meals and 2-3 snacks throughout the day. I seem to feel more energetic by splitting my calories up and not gorging myself on large amounts of food at each meal. I try to eat protein with each meal/snack. Protein is good for your muscles and cells, and it helps prolong the feeling of satiety. Some of my favorite snacks are Greek yogurt, a handful of almonds and a banana, or baby bell cheese with a couple of whole-grain crackers. 

You may have noticed there are not any vegetables on my grocery list. That is because I usually go to the cafeteria once a day for my veggie fix. I typically have a big salad for supper with carrots, broccoli, chick peas and cucumbers. Sometimes I add chicken breast or a hard boiled egg. If I do not eat salad as my meal, I still get a small side salad, or make sure to eat another type of vegetable (or two). I would frequent the cafeteria more often, but it has limited hours, and is super busy at lunch time. The Odwalla drinks that I buy are a great source of fruit, and replace the smoothies that I typically make at home. I stick with the Superfood line, and drink one for breakfast along with eating something small.

Two new things that I have tried while being down here are dried fruit and dry roasted edamame. I have had dried fruit in the past and never really cared for it, so I decided to give it another go. I tried dried pineapple and mango, and it confirmed that I still don't like it. The edamame is ok, but I think it might be an acquired taste. I wanted to try the edamame because it is relatively low in calories and saturated fat, and it is high in fiber and protein.

Along with eating healthy, I have also been going to the gym or running outside 5-6 times a week. About an hour before exercising I try to have some kind of small snack, usually almonds or an almond and fruit bar. During the workout I make sure to take a few water breaks to stay hydrated. After exercising I skip the Gatorade/Powerade type drinks and go for chocolate milk instead. Exercise scientist of University of Connecticut, William Lunn, PhD, says "The combination of carbohydrates and protein in low-fat chocolate milk appears to be "just right" for refueling weary muscles". Gatorade-like drinks typically do not contain protein, and they have around 14g of sugar per serving. Low-fat chocolate milk has about 8 g of protein per 8 oz.

Tips to Eating Healthy in a Dorm Setting:

*Avoid high calorie, low nutrient processed foods such as chips, candy, and baked goods.
*Always eat breakfast!! A complete breakfast is made up of foods from at least 3 different food groups. 
*Fresh and/or dried fruit make great snacks (watch out for added sugar on dried fruits).
*Stay hydrated! Increase water consumption, decrease soda/sugary drinks.
*Choose healthy options at the dining hall such as fish (not fried), lean meats, and vegetables/salad.
*Limit "comfort foods" such as pizza, mac & cheese, french fries, and other fried foods.
*If you have a craving for a not so good for you food, eat it in moderation. If you fight your urge you may splurge on it later on.
*Make your own sandwiches instead of buying them pre-made, you have more control over what goes in them.
*Turkey jerky makes a great snack and is low in fat and high in protein.
*Nuts are great for you and make great snacks! Try almonds, pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts, or Brazil nuts. Check out the link to see health benefits of those top five nuts:



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