Healthy Advice: Counting those college calories

Summer is coming, and with it comes swimsuit season, shorts, T-shirts and more skin to show off. The advent of this skin-baring season puts a lot of pressure on students to slim down, but losing weight — in fact, simply eating healthy — isn’t easy, particularly when so much temptation exists on campus.

College life introduces an element of freedom to individuals who had previously relied solely on the food provided at home or in school. Here, students have dining options everywhere they turn, whether it’s more formal restaurants like Eric’s in the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, dollar burritos at Taco Bell in the University Center Satellite or even gorging on the endless supply of desserts in the dining hall during a particularly stressful week. Eating healthy isn’t always a top priority.

In the past few decades, the issue of eating healthily has gone past gaining the “freshman 15” and crossed into dangerous territory.

Phillip Sparling, professor of applied physiology at the Georgia Institute of Technology, discussed the rise of this new epidemic in his 2007 article, “Preventing Chronic Disease.” He said college campuses have seen a dramatic increase in the occurrence of obesity and obesity-related disorders including type 2 diabetes, hypertension and dyslipidemia. The American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment found that three in 10 college students are either obese or overweight.

While tackling the issue of weight on a large scale is hindered by several complications, individuals can work to create a better lifestyle.

Biology junior Merlin Jacob says eating healthy isn’t impossible, and college campuses often encourage healthy eating and living.

“There are more opportunities to eat unhealthily on campus, but for me, the presence of the Rec Center makes me feel guilty. At home I’m not thinking about working out, whereas on campus I’m conscious about it,” she said.

UH has taken several steps to bring fresher and healthier food to its students, including the introduction of the Healthy for Life program.

“The Healthy for Life program is being implemented to help create a culture of wellness. It is designed to enable, educate and encourage our diners to make healthy choices,” said Caroline Sullivan, registered dietitian and UH Dining Services nutritionist.

The Healthy for Life program included the unveiling of the new Wellness Wall on Feb. 19 in Cougar Woods Dining Hall. The Wellness Wall includes Just4U nutrition messaging, which displays healthy menu items carefully selected by culinary experts. The wall also includes information on low-fat foods as well as vegetarian and vegan options.

Some other tools provided by the program include the UH Dining website and a mobile app that enables students to access the nutritional information for all dining options on campus, as well as the dietitian’s “Healthy Picks” to help students make educated food choices. In addition, UH also offers the Heart Healthy Lunch option, which includes healthy dessert options such as reduced fat oatmeal cookies and heart-healthy bread pudding.

So whether you’re trying to look good for that vacation to Cabo this summer or simply want to start leading a healthier lifestyle, explore your options and make educated decisions about what you put into your body.

Trisha Thacker is a biology junior and may be reached at [email protected].

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