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Food For Thought

Food For Thought: The Back To School Shopping List

As summer winds down, it’s time for many to head back to college. When I was in college, I loved getting ready for that first day with my new notebooks, freshly sharpened pencils, and school books. I would neatly organize everything in anticipation of the first day of school. What a great luxury to be able to go to college! Those years opened my mind to so much.

But going to college has recognized health hazards: Too much sitting, too little sleep, and inadequate nutrition. In fact, these unhealthy behaviors hold back the student from achieving their academic potential! Below I’ve listed why these behaviors are so bad and solutions to avoid them.

Too much sitting.

Our bodies evolved over millions of years to do one thing: move. Sitting for long hours is unnatural. Sitting causes the body to shut down at the metabolic level. How? When the large muscles in the legs are immobile, circulation slows and you burn fewer calories. Key fat-burning enzymes, such as lipoprotein lipase, are turned off. Spend a full day sitting and those fat-burners are reduced by 50%! Because you aren’t moving, you use less blood sugar, causing larger quantities of insulin to be released. Sitting makes you more prone to depression: Sluggish circulation prevents endorphin (the feel-good chemicals) release in the brain. Solution: Take breaks from sitting. Get up out of your chair every hour. Stretch. Walk around for a few minutes. If you are in the library, go up and down the stairs.

Too little sleep.

Sleep deprivation is part of college life, especially around exam time. Sleep’s main effect is within the brain’s hippocampus, the memory center. Sleep has two important roles: 1.) It strengthens and stabilizes memory so that information is resistant to being lost. 2.) Sleep improves attention, so that learning is improved. Studies of sleep deprivation show lack of sleep decreases accuracy and speed in tests of mental abilities. Solution: The average need for sleep is 7-8.5 hours. Avoid drinking caffeine in the afternoon. Prepare ahead for your exams. Set up a study schedule a few weeks prior to your exams and stick to it. To do well on tests it is essential that you do not cram.

Poor nutrition.

College tuitions may be sky high but the meals served are nutritionally lacking. Meals are packed with cheap, high carbohydrate foods like pasta, rice, bread and white potatoes. The vegetables are overcooked and soggy. A recent study of 563 college students at Oregon State found that 60% did not eat even one vegetable daily – except the potato. And every night there is dessert! Dormitories usually have vending machines for study-snacks to make matter worse. Solution: Look, the food is less than ideal so you need to minimize the bad and emphasize the good. First, make a vow to yourself that you will stay clear of the vending machine. Next, the best thing you can do for yourself is to make a point of waking up for breakfast daily. Not just cereal. Start your day right with a breakfast proteins – eggs, yogurt, or a smoothie with low fat milk.  Eating breakfast keeps you energized and alert. Chose whole grains.  At lunch and dinner, visit the salad bar for raw veggies, if the cooked vegetables are unappetizing. Snacks are important – below are terrific ones that are good for you:

  • Buy a popcorn popper for $20 so you can have air popped corn as a study snack. Sprinkle with some chili powder and salt or cinnamon or cocoa powder or shredded coconut.
  • Keep a small refrigerator in your room. Stock it with fruits, yogurt and low fat cheese snacks. Baby carrots, celery, baby tomatoes, red or green peppers are great crunchy snacks. Take a couple of handfuls of veggies from the salad bar, put in a plastic bag, and you can skip the grocery store. Use hummus if you like to dip. For a real treat: try Holy Guacamole – available in 100 calorie packs.
  • Emerald 100-calorie packs of almonds and almonds with cocoa.  The cocoa is just dusted over the almonds, as opposed to dipped in chocolate.
  • Protein bars and fruit bars should be free of preservatives and all natural. Many of the popular bars are really just disguised candy bars! Try NuGo Slim with 7 grams of fiber, 17grams of protein and only 2 grams sugar. The Good Bean is a fruit and chickpea bar with only 130 calories and 5 grams of protein. Pure organic cherry-cashew bar is made with unsweetened organic cherries and has 7 grams of protein. Healthy Warrior Chia Bar contains 1000 grams omega-3s and only 110 calories. In my office I recommend the That’s It bars as they contain only the fruit itself no preservatives or artificial ingredients and the Good Greens bars - all natural and supply 10 grams of protein.
  • Parents – if you send a care package, may I suggest Harry and David’s Fruit? 1-877-322-1200 or Your hard working student will appreciate this gift.

Have a great time. Study hard. And take good care of your health!

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