Here's to Healthy Eating and Healthy Living

College Student 1: “Hey!  Did you hear about the club meeting tonight?”

College Student 2: “Nah.  I’m tired.  I’ve been in the library all afternoon.”

College Student 1: “It’s FREE FOOD!  All you can eat pizza, chicken fingers, and soft drinks!”

College Student 2: “Let’s go!  I haven’t eaten for about 6 hours.  I’m starving!”


This all-too familiar conversation can be heard on college campuses all across the country.  As college freshmen step into new environments and routines that require them to juggle classes, figure out new independence, understand expectations of professors, live away from home,  and follow a schedule where meals are not always waiting for them to arrive, good eating habits may fall way down on the priority list. 


In order to save money and time, tasty fast foods and inexpensive snacks have become the meals of choice for many college students.  They are cheap to buy and quick to swallow.  Many meals are eaten “on the go” to class, study sessions, or social activities.  Little or no thought is given to establishing a routine of sitting down to eat healthy foods in a calm setting.  As a high school student you can think now about starting a plan for healthy eating habits that will carry you from high school, through college, into your career, and beyond.   


Many times, when we think about the food we eat, we consider convenience, taste, cost, and calories.  How many times do we consider the nutritional value, vitamins, and minerals?  If you are like most students, the answer is “not very often.”  Yet it is those nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that keep your body fit to handle everyday life.


QUICK QUIZ:  Here is a list of “take out” foods.  Can you rank them in order of which are eaten by most Americans?



ANSWER: Pizza is ranked number 1, followed by Chinese food, and then burger and fries.  Surprised?  Probably not.  Can you guess which vegetables were the most popular?  Potatoes and iceberg lettuce.


So, how do you start on this healthy journey without totally changing your entire life?  I’m glad you asked.  It’s easier than you think.  Since it takes 21 days to form a new habit, begin now. Here is a listing of some simple substitutions you can try.  Pick one or two from the list you can comfortably add to your normal routine now and add others over time.


Instead of This Try This
Sugar-coated breakfast cereal Whole grain cereal with a sprinkle of sugar
Sprinkle of sugar on your cereal Fresh or dried fruit on top 
Whole egg scramble or omellette  Egg white scramble or omellette
White toast or bagel  Whole grain bread versions 
Creamy Sauces on Pasta  Tomato-based pasta sauces 
Sugary Drink or juice Spring/Sparkling water, 100% fruit juice
Yogurt covered raisins and nuts Plain fruit and low salt nuts 
Bag of chips and soda snack  Pack of almonds and botttled water
Buttery popcorn  Natural, low salt popcorn 
Chocolate bar with nuts, caramel, and Krispies Dark chocolate covered, pretzels
Everything covered in "ranch" Mustard, plain yogurt





Of course, this is only a partial list to get you started.  Once you get used to these swaps, you can move on to more advanced options like choosing a side salad with vinaigrette dressing instead of the seasoned fries, or filling your plate with veggies ( rather than chicken fingers and cheesy potatoes.  


When you think you are ready for the “advanced level” of choosing healthy eating habits, search for additional tips from


Make your meals as colorful as possible to increase the nutrient variety.  Use an array of colored vegetables and fruits, different types of meats, and a range of dairy options rather than the same choices all the time.  If you do not like a particular food, try it again later.  Taste buds change and you may find you like something you did not like previously.  Try to snack on foods that you may not get to eat at main meals, such as fruit, fruit bars, dried fruit, yogurt, milkshakes, crackers, vegetable sticks, and nuts.   


Just a few changes made over a period of time can result in BIG changes over a lifetime.  You will begin to notice that you feel better and think clearer.  Your one or two adjustments today can make a difference not only to your own health, but to the healthy choices of your friends and family as they watch you lead the way to eating better, feeling better, and living better.  



Sheryl Smith is an educator in Auburn, Alabama