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How to maintain a healthy diet on a college campus

Pierce Turner

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Photo courtesy of dieticianweb.com

Keeping up with diet and nutrition is a difficult challenge for anyone, let alone college students who love beer and pizza. Diets are great but much like other addictions such as painkillers and meth, it’s easy to backslide into cheeseburgers. Staying strong will benefit you in the long run, but how can you do that on campus? Here are some helpful diet tips for a variety of picky eaters.

Weight Losers

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So you want to lose weight. If you’re looking to lose a healthy amount of weight, a little (a lot) hard work and persistence will go a long way.

The cafeteria has a salad bar that will be pretty decent once you spice it up with some veggies and a little dressing. Aside from that, there’s usually at least one healthy item at the Kitchen like sautéed spinach or kale. The hardest part here will just be avoiding eye contact with the pizza bar.

Chop’d & Wrap’d is the healthiest option outside of the cafeteria with salads and wraps galore. Be careful though as they’ll pour the dressing until you say stop. Don’t let your salad or wrap turn into soup. Stay away from adding too much fun stuff like bacon bits and croutons as well.

UNF nutrition instructor, Andrea Altice, gave some helpful advice for a variety of diets.

“Get [foods] with whole grains whether it’s whole grain cereal or whole wheat bread,” said Altice. “Things with fiber, like fresh fruit and vegetables, keep you full and that will help with people trying to lose a few pounds.”

Altering your diet to include whole grains and fruit is easy. When ordering a wrap or a sandwich, make sure to ask for wheat — simple as that. And why not put some fruit on the side? Almost every eatery on campus has apples or bananas for sale.

Maintaining a lean diet is important, but the weight won’t go away on its own. Exercise and diet go hand-in-hand and working out at least four to six times a week will produce happy results. After you lose the extra weight, you may want to take the next step: putting on muscle.

Muscle Builders

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Curls get girls and tris get guys, it’s true, but gains are impossible without a proper diet to go along with your workout. Luckily most locations on campus have at least one option for the nerds who want some muscle.

Protein (brotein) is going to be your best friend through this process. Some good sources of protein include peanut butter, milk and meat. The type of meat is important though. Try to get in the habit of screaming and running when you see fried chicken or any other kind of meat. It has protein, yes, but you are far better off with lean meats such as grilled chicken or fish.

Chop’d & Wrap’d has the leanest and greenest options on campus. Build your own salad, build your own wraps, choose your protein (always pick grilled chicken), and you’ll be putting things inside you that make your body happy and healthy.

For those who really want to bulk, however, the cafeteria is the way to go. Find the grill in the back left and take as much grilled chicken as you like–after all, it’s a buffet. The kitchen to the right of that usually has veggies like spinach or kale, and of course the salad bar works here too (though it isn’t as good as Chop’d & Wrap’d).

Altice says that one of the most important parts of staying strong is a large carb intake.

“People are usually saying that carbs are bad because they are trying to lose weight, when in fact you need at least 50 percent of your calories coming from carbohydrates; that’s the bulk of getting your energy,” said Altice. “You should not be cutting out carbohydrates to lose weight.”

The main focus here is to eat a lot, but eat healthy. Working out every day will increase your appetite exponentially and what better place to satiate that hunger than a buffet filled with protein (brotein).

Vegans

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This will be by far the hardest diet to maintain with an on-campus diet. You might run into some locations that don’t cater to vegans at all. The cafe’ does have plenty of options for those of you with meal plans.

All the way in the back right corner is the vegan bar. This tiny bar has only three stations, but they are full of food catered specifically to vegans. Choices like tofu stew, vegetable paella, kale and other tasty, animal-free treats.

The most important thing for vegans is to make sure you are getting enough of three main nutrients: protein, iron and B12. Protein can be found in tofu, beans, tofu, nuts and peanut butter…and tofu. So basically if you don’t like tofu, you will have a hard time being a vegan.

For B12, Altice recommends a supplement for vegans because it comes from animals. These can be bought for cheap from Publix or Walgreens.

Iron comes from red meats, chicken and fish. Altice recommends using an iron skillet to cook dried beans and peas which will absorb the iron from the cooking ware.

Cheat Day

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Everybody needs a cheat day too. Sorry, but diet or no diet, you can’t just quit pizza cold turkey. Take a Sunday or Saturday every week to have some pizza at the cafeteria or Papa John’s. If you want to stay healthy while also cheating a bit, get a quesadilla from Chick-N-Grill. They taste like Christmas morning and you can fill em’ up with veggies.

Altice knows the importance of cheat days too.

“I know you have cravings for pizza and Chick-fil-A and that’s okay. If you’re having it once in awhile that’s fine. Pizza is okay but it’s about what you put on it. Don’t put any high fat products on there. Put hamburger instead of pepperoni or use turkey pepperoni,” said Altice.

Take it from someone who used to eat whole pizzas every chance he got, switching to a healthier diet makes you feel better inside and out. Whether you want to gain muscle, lose fat, or go vegan, you will become a better version of yourself. What’s not to like about more energy throughout the day? At the very least, you’ll be able to complain about having to stick to a strict eating regimen. And you’ll have that cheat day to look forward to as well.

For more information or news tips, or if you see an error in this story or have any compliments or concerns, contact [email protected].

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How to maintain a healthy diet on a college campus