NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Lindsey Recker

Recent Posts by Lindsey Recker:

Saving Money on Groceries While Eating Well

GettyImages-517974394With inflation at a 40-year high and grocery costs up close to 11% compared to 2021, saving money at the store has become a priority for many. However, when trying to save money at the store, many individuals cut back on the pricier yet healthier items, such as fruits, vegetables, and lean protein sources. But you don’t have to do that! Here are some tips and tricks for maintaining a healthy diet while shopping smart and saving money at the store.

  • Have a grocery store game plan. Make a list of the meals and snacks you plan to eat throughout the week and the foods you will need to make them. Sticking to this list will help prevent you from buying things you do not need, which often results in wasted food and money.
  • Join your store's loyalty or rewards program. Often these programs are free and automatically apply savings at checkout, requiring minimal effort from you.
  • Buy “in-season” and “local” fruits and vegetables when possible. Fruits and vegetables that are local or in season are typically cheaper to produce and ship, resulting in a lower price for the consumer compared to hard-to-find or out-of-season produce. See what produce is currently in season at the USDA website.
  • Buy frozen. If you have freezer space available, purchase frozen fruits and vegetables without added salt or sauces. Typically frozen fruits and vegetables are just as healthy as fresh and are a fraction of the cost.
  • Buy canned fruits and vegetables. When purchasing fruits, try to buy those that are packaged in 100% fruit juice. When purchasing vegetables, look for those that have “no salt added” listed on the label, or simply rinse prior to preparing/cooking to help wash off some of the salt added for preservation.
  • Grow your own! Grow your own fruits, vegetables, and herbs to cut back on packaging costs.
  • Buy fresh. Check the “sell by” or “best by” date to ensure you are buying the freshest items.
  • Compare your options. Compare and contrast different sizes and brands to find the most cost-effective option. Looking at the “price per unit” can help you find the best deal.
  • Buy in bulk. When you know a certain food or drink will get used, buy in bulk or purchase value- or family-sized items. For produce and meat, anything that isn’t used can be frozen for later use.

New call-to-action

This blog was written by Lindsey Recker, MS, RD, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: healthy eating whole foods fruits and vegetables grocery shopping saving money frozen food

Nutrition Tips for Traveling

Vacation is supposed to be fun, enjoyable, and relaxing. When it comes to weight loss attempts or making healthy choices in general, however, traveling can be a challenge. Here are some of our RD’s best tips for healthy eating when traveling or on vacation.

GettyImages-1164380753
  • Pack your own snacks. If you’re road-tripping, instead of stopping at gas stations, convenience stores, or fast-food restaurants, pack a cooler with healthier alternatives, such as fresh fruit, washed and ready-to-eat veggies (carrots, cucumbers, celery, etc.), homemade sandwiches, protein and/or high-fiber granola bars, or single-serving yogurt cups or cheese sticks.
  • Eat at home. If your vacation home or hotel has kitchen access, be sure to make use of it! Instead of eating out for each meal, which is not only expensive but also typically provides more calories, fat, and sodium, try preparing something for yourself at home.
  • Move more. If possible, incorporate physical activity into your trip. No, this doesn’t mean you have to get a weeklong gym membership for your vacation; rather, spend time walking along the beach, riding bikes, or participating in another physical activity. If you’ll be on the road, be sure to walk around or stretch when you stop to rest.
  • Stay hydrated. Bring a refillable water bottle with you on your trip to save money and stay hydrated, especially if you’re traveling somewhere with a lot of sun or high temperatures.
  • Be mindful. Vacation shouldn’t be an excuse to overdo it, however; you should still enjoy yourself! Instead of indulging at each opportunity, perhaps limit yourself to indulging in a special or sweet treat just once a day.

    New call-to-action

This blog was written by Lindsey Recker, MS, RD, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: staying active snacks summer hydration water traveling mindfulness

Alkaline Water: Is It Worth the Hydration Hype?

We all know it’s essential to stay hydrated in the summer, and that the best way to do so is by drinking plenty of water. But is there a certain type of water, such as “alkaline” water, that offers better hydration? Here’s what our Registered Dietitian has to say.

GettyImages-170440672Alkaline vs. Acid

Alkaline water is typically fortified with small amounts of “alkalizing” minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and/or sodium in order to increase its pH, making it less acidic. The pH scale is used to specify the acidity or basicity (alkalinity) of a water-based solution. The pH scale ranges from 0, highly acidic, to 14, highly basic. For perspective, some everyday liquids and their respective pHs include

  • battery acid (pH = 0)
  • tomato juice (pH = 4)
  • baking soda (pH = 9)
  • bleach (pH = 13)

Pure water has a pH of 7, alkaline water typically has a pH of 8 or 9.

The Hypothesis

Some individuals hypothesize that drinking water with a higher pH than that of the body’s blood (between 7.35 and 7.45 for healthy individuals) can help decrease acidity in the body by raising its overall pH. However, the pH of the body is tightly regulated by our kidneys and lungs, and excessive acid buildup is unlikely, unless an underlying health condition is present, such as kidney or respiratory failure, severe infection, uncontrolled diabetes, or physical muscle trauma. Even in cases such as these, a lot more would need to be done than drinking water with a slightly higher pH than that of the body. With a pH of closer to 2–3, stomach acid likely neutralizes the water immediately, regardless of how high its pH is. And even if the extra “alkaline” in alkaline water was able to make it into our bloodstream, it would quickly be filtered by our kidneys and removed from the body by way of our urine.

Is It Safe?

Overall, alkaline water is still water; therefore, it is generally safe for consumption and serves its main purpose: to hydrate you. However, any out-of-the-ordinary health benefits boasted on the label are likely just a marketing tactic. Nevertheless, alkaline water is a great choice for hydration, especially when compared to sugary, high-calorie beverages such as soda, sugary sports drinks, and/or juice. Be sure to stay hydrated this summer by drinking plenty of water—alkaline or not!

New call-to-action

This blog was written by Lindsey Recker, MS, RD, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition summer hydration water myth busters

Eating Sustainably: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle Food and Food Waste

GettyImages-183040731Did you know it is estimated that food loss and food waste account for more than 8 percent of total human-made greenhouse gas emissions, a leading driver of climate change? According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), it is estimated that 30–40 percent of the food supply (130 billion pounds of food) goes to waste each year. Additionally, the United Nations has claimed that if global food waste were able to represent its own country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter, following China and the US. Fortunately, you can help cut back on your personal food waste by reducing, reusing, and recycling your leftovers. Here’s how.

Reduce

Reduce your meat consumption. Animal agriculture is a leading cause of deforestation. Additionally, in the US, livestock and their waste are the largest contributor of methane, a greenhouse gas that has a significantly larger impact on our planet than carbon dioxide.

You can also reduce your consumption of “exotic” or hard-to-find fruits and vegetables and choose those that are locally grown or in season. Check out what fruits and vegetables are currently in season in the USDA Seasonal Produce Guide.

  • You can also do things to reduce your food and food packaging waste.
  • Plan a list for the grocery store to avoid purchasing more food than you need.
  • Choose paper or cardboard packaging rather than plastic.
  • Opt for items available in bulk and limit single-use containers and packaging.
  • Purchase reusable sandwich or snack bags rather than single-use plastic bags.
  • Learn how to properly freeze foods, rather than throwing away leftovers or unused foods.

Reuse

Reuse leftover food. You can find some tips and tricks for reusing leftovers at the Move for Hunger website.

Use plastic water bottles more than just once. Or purchase an aluminum reusable water bottle to eliminate your plastic waste while keeping your drink cool.

Reuse shopping bags as trash can liners, animal waste bags, or fillers for shoes/purses to help them maintain their shape. Or you can purchase reusable shopping bags for your grocery trips to significantly cut back on your plastic waste.

Recycle

Recycle your food waste by composting. Turn your leftover fruits, vegetables, coffee grounds, nutshells, newspaper, and more into soil for growing plants, perhaps even those that you can eat. Visit the US Environmental Protection Agency’s guide to Composting at Home.

Recycle paper and plastic products, when and where possible. If you’re not able to add something to the recycling bin, consider other ways you can utilize it.

New call-to-action

This blog was written by Lindsey Recker, MS, RD, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: holidays fruits and vegetables food waste seasonal eating Earth Day recycling sustainability

How to Pick the Right Protein Bar for Your Nutritional Needs

GettyImages-1015564600Protein bars make a great snack when you’re short on time or don’t have a big appetite. However, these days there are so many different protein bars available to choose from that picking the right one can be difficult. Some protein bars are relatively healthy; however, many are just fancy candy bars with a lot of sugar and saturated fat, and only a few grams of protein. When picking a protein bar, here are the top five nutrients to look for.

Total Calories

The number of calories, or amount of energy the bar provides, should depend on the purpose you want it to serve (snack, meal replacement, and so on) and the total number of grams of protein the bar contains. Typically, it is appropriate to choose a protein bar with between 150 and 250 calories.

Protein

The amount of protein is typically the first thing people look for when selecting a protein bar. However, how much is sufficient? As an in-between-meal snack, about 10 grams should suffice, whereas bars with more than 20 grams of protein per serving are great options for those who participate in heavy strength training.

As a rule of thumb, usually a bar that contains >25% of its total calories from protein is appropriate. For example, if a protein bar has 150 total calories and 10 grams of protein, about 26% of the calories in the bar come from protein (10 grams x 4 calories/gram = 40 calories/150 calories). However, a bar with 220 calories and just 12 grams of protein would only have about 21% of its total calories from protein.

Saturated Fat

Many protein bars have a high saturated fat content. The average American diet is already high in saturated fat, a nutrient that can increase your LDL (“bad” cholesterol) levels and increase the risk of developing heart disease. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest consuming <10% of your daily calories from saturated fat, so you should follow similar guidelines when looking for a protein bar. For example, a protein bar that has 150 calories and 3 grams of saturated fat (9 calories/gram of saturated fat) has close to 20% of its calories from saturated fat, which does not follow the suggested guidelines. However, a bar with 200 calories and just 1.5 grams of saturated fat has only 6% of calories from saturated fat, and therefore would be a more appropriate choice.

Sugar

Added sugars are a source of calories, but provide hardly any nutrients. To avoid choosing a candy bar advertised as a protein bar, opt for one with less than 6–8 grams of added sugars. If “sugar,” “sucrose,” or “high-fructose corn syrup” is one of the main ingredients listed on the label (listed first after “ingredients”), it is likely that the bar will contain more sugar than recommended and you should avoid it.

Fiber

Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that helps keep you fuller for longer and an important component of a protein bar if you’re utilizing it as a snack or meal replacement. A good suggestion to follow would be to choose a protein bar that has at least 3 grams of fiber. Use caution, however: some protein bars can contain high amounts of fiber, and if you don’t currently meet your fiber requirements, this could cause gastrointestinal discomfort (bloating, gas, and so on).

Protein bars can play a role in a healthy diet. Use these guidelines to make sure you’re picking the right bar for your nutritional needs.

Like what you've just read? Click here to subscribe to our blog!

This blog was written by Lindsey Recker, MS, RD, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition snacks calories protein fiber carbs sugar fats nutrients

Everything You Need to Know About Electrolytes and Exercise

GettyImages-611081148Sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphate, and chloride are all electrolytes, or minerals that fulfill essential roles within the body. More specifically, sodium, chloride, and potassium work together to maintain fluid balance within the body, while magnesium and calcium promote optimal muscle function and aid in energy metabolism.

An imbalance in one or more of these electrolytes can lead to disrupted bodily functions, which may present as dizziness, headache, fatigue, irregular heartbeat, muscle cramps, dark-colored urine, mental confusion, or nausea and vomiting. Typically, the average adult is able to maintain adequate electrolyte levels by consuming a well-rounded, healthy diet and staying hydrated.

How Are Electrolytes Related to Exercise?

Electrolytes are primarily lost through urine and sweat, which is why it’s so important to hydrate before, during, and after physical activity. The amount of electrolytes lost during exercise varies greatly from person to person, but also depends on the length and intensity of exercise, the individual’s body composition, the type of clothing worn during exercise, and the environment or climate in which the exercise is performed. On average, athletes can lose anywhere from 1 to 3 liters of fluid per hour of intense exercise, and in turn lose a significant amount of fluids and electrolytes.

How Do I Properly Replenish Electrolytes After Exercise?

Electrolyte replacement is most important during high-intensity activity that occurs for longer than 1 hour, or anytime when heavy sweating occurs, such as in high temperatures. Typically, water and a balanced snack are enough to replenish electrolytes after most exercise sessions. Ideally, choose a snack that has a balance of sodium- and potassium-rich foods, such as a banana with peanut butter, a hard-boiled egg and a piece of fruit, or yogurt with nuts. However, for physical activity that lasts longer than 60–90 minutes, a carbohydrate-containing (10–20 grams per 8 ounces) electrolyte replacement beverage may be appropriate. Be cautious, as many electrolyte replacement beverages are high in added sugars and empty calories.

Remember, just like not consuming enough electrolytes, too many electrolyte-rich foods can cause electrolyte imbalances with undesirable side effects. Speak with a registered dietitian nutritionist (RD/RDN) to learn more about your individualized fluid, electrolyte, and other nutrition needs.

This blog was written by Lindsey Recker, MS, RD, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

 

New call-to-action

Topics: exercise nutrition hydration sports nutrition

Are You Eating Too Much Sodium?

GettyImages-525359720Sodium is a mineral and electrolyte that helps balance the amount of fluid and other minerals in your body. It also plays an important role in nerve and muscle function. The terms “sodium” and “salt” are typically used interchangeably; however, sodium is a mineral and one of the chemical components found in salt (also called sodium chloride). Sodium is found naturally in some foods, and added to others for flavor or preservation.

While some sodium is necessary for the body to function (~500 mg/day), over time consuming too much sodium can have undesirable health effects. One of the most notable consequences of consuming too much sodium is high blood pressure. High blood pressure can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke, the two leading causes of death in the U.S., as well as kidney disease, loss of vision, and many more health complications.

Where Is Sodium Found in Foods?

Although most people believe their sodium intake mainly comes from salt they add to food by hand, only around 10% of the average American’s sodium intake comes from salt added while cooking or eating. Instead, more than 70% of the sodium consumed by Americans is from packaged and processed foods and food from restaurants. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the largest contributors of sodium in the American diet include sandwiches (including burgers and tacos), pasta and other grain dishes, soups, pizzas, and meat and seafood dishes.

How Much Sodium Can I Consume?

The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 2,300mg (1 teaspoon) of sodium per day; however, consuming less than 1,500mg is preferred, especially in those with preexisting high blood pressure. Despite these guidelines, the average adult in the U.S. consumes close to 3,400mg of sodium each day.

How Can I Reduce My Sodium Intake?

To help reduce your sodium intake and promote overall health, try some of the following suggestions:

  • Compare Nutrition Facts labels of various packaged foods and choose the one with the lowest sodium content.
  • Select canned foods, such as vegetables and beans, with “no salt added” or “low sodium” listed on the label.
  • Use herbs, spices, and other sodium-free seasonings to add flavor to food, rather than salt and salty seasoning blends.
  • Limit foods that are pickled, cured, or smoked, as these tend to be high in sodium. Foods that are grilled, poached, or roasted may be better options.
  • Choose whole, unprocessed foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These foods tend to be very low in sodium.
  • Minimize the amount of salt added during cooking and at the table.
  • If you currently eat a lot of salt/sodium, try gradually reducing your intake to give your taste buds time to transition.

Sodium and Exercise

The recommendation to consume less than 1,500mg per day does not apply to everyone, particularly individuals who lose excess amounts of sweat, such as competitive athletes or outdoor construction workers. Sodium and potassium are the two major electrolytes lost in sweat, although the amount lost varies from person to person. Typically, it is appropriate to replenish these electrolytes after intense exercise (typically >60 minutes) or excessive sweat loss.

When choosing electrolyte replacement drinks, select one with about 14–16g of carbohydrates and between 100 and 165mg of sodium per every 8 ounces for optimal recovery. And as always, it is important to talk with your physician or registered dietitian to determine how much sodium is appropriate for you based on your health status and other contributing factors.

Like what you've just read? Click here to subscribe to our blog!

This blog was written by Lindsey Recker, MS, RD, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition healthy eating sodium hypertension

Five Nutrition-Focused New Year's Resolutions That Aren’t About Weight

GettyImages-1358382035While having a New Year’s Resolution to “lose more weight” isn’t a bad thing, it’s not easy. And depending on how much you want to lose and in what time frame, it’s not always realistic. To benefit your overall health without focusing on your weight, try setting (and sticking to) some of the following nutrition-related resolutions going into 2022.

Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

About 80 percent of the US population doesn’t meet their fruit intake recommendations, while close to 90 percent do not meet their suggested vegetable intake (source: CDC). The Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourage adults to consume around 2–2.5 cups of fruit per day and 2.5–3 cups of vegetables per day. Although this may be a lot for some, simply aiming to eat one additional fruit or vegetable each day is still beneficial.

Drink More Water

Water is essential for the body. It aids in digestion, regulates body temperature, cushions joints, and helps remove wastes from the body. Not drinking enough water increases the risk for dehydration, which can cause dizziness, confusion, fatigue, headaches and dry skin and mouth (source: CDC). A general rule of thumb is to consume at least 1 milliliter of water for every 1 calorie consumed. For example, if you consumed 2,200 calories per day, you would want to aim to consume 2,200ml, or 2.2 liters of water per day.

Consume Less Alcohol

Excess alcohol intake has both short- and long-term health consequences. In the short term, drinking too much can result in risky behaviors, injury, or violence. Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of high blood pressure and heart disease, certain cancers, weakened immune system, learning and memory issues, and social problems. Most professional health organizations such as the CDC and WHO agree that men should limit alcohol intake to less than two drinks/day, while women should aim for less than one drink per day (source: CDC).

Decrease Sodium Intake

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest consuming less than 2,300mg of sodium per day to promote optimal health and reduce the risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death for adults in the US. However, in the US, the average sodium intake for individuals older than 1 year of age is ~3,400mg/day. Strategies for reducing sodium intake include cooking at home more often, using herbs and spices to season foods rather than salt, and consuming fewer packaged/prepared foods.

Limit Saturated Fat Consumption

Like sodium, excess saturated fat consumption is linked to an increased risk for heart disease. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest limiting saturated fat intake to less than 10% of daily calories, while the American Heart Association recommends even less, at less than 5–6% of daily calories from saturated fat per day. Saturated fat is found in most animal-based foods such as beef, poultry, pork, full-fat dairy products, and coconut and palm oils. To cut back on saturated fat, reduce your intake or eat smaller portions of the foods listed above and replace them with healthier options, such as fat-free or low-fat dairy and lean cuts of meat.

New call-to-action

This blog was written by Lindsey Recker, MS, RD, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition resolutions weight loss healthy eating hydration goals new year's sodium alcohol dietitian fruits and vegetables fats healthy living

How to Make Favorite Thanksgiving Foods Healthier

GettyImages-621721636Although the holidays are meant to be a time of joy, they can be stressful for some, especially when you’re trying to lose or maintain weight, or just be more conscious of your eating habits. The best way to avoid these health-related stressors during the holidays is to prepare for them.

Following are seven of the most commonly consumed Thanksgiving foods and some suggestions for how to make them a bit healthier. Just by incorporating two or three of these simple swaps, you can reduce your intake of some not-so-health-friendly nutrients (like saturated fat and sodium), while still enjoying the seasonal foods you love and look forward to year after year.

 

Turkey

Opt for light turkey meat over dark meat because light turkey meat tends to have fewer calories, less saturated fat, and more protein per ounce. Removing all or some of the skin prior to eating can also help reduce total caloric and fat intake.

3 ounces of light turkey meat contains:

  • Without skin: 125 calories, 1.8g fat, 0.5g saturated fat, and 25.6g protein
  • With skin: 150 calories, 3.8g fat, 1.1g saturated fat, and 26.3g protein

3 ounces of dark turkey meat contains:

  • Without skin: 150 calories, 5.1g fat, 1.5g saturated fat, and 23.6g protein
  • With skin: 175 calories, 8.5g fat, 2.5g saturated fat, and 23.2g protein

Stuffing

Replace the bagged or boxed stuffing with homemade, which is typically lower in sodium and other processed ingredients. Use whole-grain bread in place of white bread to increase fiber content.

Incorporate more vegetables (celery, onion, carrots, broccoli, corn, mushrooms) and herbs (thyme, sage) to increase the nutrient content and overall flavor of your stuffing without adding too many extra calories and salt.

Use a reduced-sodium broth in place of regular broth, which can have several hundred additional milligrams of sodium per serving.

Green Bean Casserole

Use fresh steamed green beans, rather than canned, to decrease sodium content. Or you can choose canned green beans with “no salt added.” Use reduced-sodium cream of mushroom soup and add real sautéed mushrooms for additional flavor and fiber. Try air-frying onions rather than buying packaged fried onions.

Cranberries

Use fresh cranberries in place of canned cranberries or cranberry sauce to help reduce added sugar and total caloric intake. If you must use canned cranberries, select those that are naturally sweetened without added sugars.

Potatoes

Use low-fat milk, plain Greek yogurt, or low-sodium chicken broth in place of cream, butter, or margarine. Use real potatoes with the skin intact to boost fiber content. Limit the amount of butter, salt and gravy added to mashed potatoes.

Instead of sweet-potato casserole, try roasted sweet potatoes with brown sugar, chopped nuts, and a little bit of butter available for topping.

Beverages

Limit alcohol and other calorie-containing beverages, such as soda and juice. If you do choose to consume alcohol, opt for lower-calorie drinks (seltzers, light beer, dry wines) and calorie-free mixers such as seltzer water or diet sodas. As always, be sure to consume in moderation; alcohol may make you more inclined to overeat.

Dessert

Opt for 100% pure pumpkin and reduce the amount used (or consumed) as filling to help cut back on calories. Skip the whipped cream, ice cream, and other toppings that may add additional calories.

If you’re given a choice, pumpkin pie tends to be lower in calories than pecan pie.

For many people, Thanksgiving may be the only time a year they get to enjoy pumpkin pie. If that’s the case for you, it’s perfectly acceptable to indulge; just be sure to practice portion control.

***

Don’t have any say over what you and your family are having for Thanksgiving this year? Check out these tips for a practical, healthy holiday. Additionally, be sure to stay active, practice moderation and portion control, and remember: Thanksgiving happens only once a year and is much more than the food we pile onto our plates.

For more great recipes from NIFS dietitian, Lindsey Recker, go to https://www.nifs.org/healthy-recipes-nifs.

This blog was written by Lindsey Recker, MS, RD, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: healthy eating holidays Thanksgiving alcohol fruits and vegetables turkey

The Freshman 15: Is College Weight Gain Fact or Fake?

GettyImages-1276822901With the phrase “freshman 15” commonly tossed around, many students enter college with a fear or perception that they will gain weight. However, a meta-analysis of the available research showed that, while close to two thirds (60.9%) of first-year college students did gain weight, the average amount gained was only around 7.5 pounds. Of those who reported weight gain, only 10% gained 15 or more poundBased on these findings, not everyone experiences the “freshman 15”; however, it is evident that the majority of first-year college students do gain some weight. Increased stress levels, fewer hours of sleep, excess alcohol intake, and reduced physical activity are just some of the factors that may contribute to weight gain in college.

To prevent weight gain and maximize your overall health this semester, try some of the following suggestions:

Stick to a schedule.

College can wreak havoc on your preferred living, sleeping, and eating routines. It is important to establish a schedule and stick to it. Healthy habits to adopt include the following:

  • Eating at least three well-rounded meals each day (and minimize late-night snacking).
  • Going to bed and waking up around the same time each day.
  • Drinking plenty of water (a general recommendation is at least 2–3 liters [64–96oz] each day).
  • Getting between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night.

Plan ahead and stock up on healthy staples.

A little preparation ahead of time will keep you from grabbing unhealthy snacks.

  • Keep healthy snacks and staples in your dorm room or apartment. Some examples include the following: Microwavable brown rice, oatmeal, and popcorn; yogurt, apples, bananas, peanut butter, hummus, cheese sticks, granola, bagels, nuts, whole-grain crackers, cereal, and protein bars.
  • Limit foods commonly consumed in college that are high in sodium and calories, such as ramen noodles, heavily buttered popcorn, and pizza.
  • Keep a knife and cutting board on hand to slice fresh fruits and vegetables.

Limit high-sugar, high-calorie beverages.

Reduce intake of soda, energy drinks, sweetened coffees and teas, and alcohol. If you do choose to consume these beverages, be sure to drink in moderation and to factor them into your total caloric intake.

Don’t overdo it at the dining hall.

With limitless options, including plenty of not-so-healthy ones, making smart and healthy decisions at the dining hall can be complicated. To start, aim to pair a high-quality, lean protein source (chicken, fish, turkey, beans, yogurt, eggs, etc.) with a fruit or vegetable at each meal. Other tips include the following:

  • Make use of the salad bar, if available, but be sure to limit high-caloric toppings such as nuts, seeds, cheeses, and dressings.
  • Allow yourself some “treat foods,” but don’t make this a daily habit.
  • Eliminate distractions while eating. Focus on the food you are eating, rather than your phone, laptop, or schoolwork.

Stay active.

Adults over 18 years of age should aim to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, and muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days each week. In order to meet these recommendations, make use of your school’s recreation center or gym, walk to class when possible, or participate in intramural sports. (Here are some more tips for staying fit in college.)

Like what you've just read? Click here to subscribe to our blog!

This blog was written by Lindsey Recker, MS, RD, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: healthy habits healthy eating snacks weight management college