A healthy breakfast is the best way to start your day, every day

Breakfast breakdown

With finals approaching, you’re going to need all the energy you can get to stay awake and focused. Energy drinks and large intakes of caffeine are not the way to do that. A busy day requires the right start, which comes in the form of a healthy breakfast.

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day (“they” meaning doctors or nutritionists or my mom, I’m not entirely sure) and it is completely true. In order to fuel your body for a productive and focused day, you need to start at the beginning.

It may seem easy to wake up early and eat a stack of pancakes with a side of bacon and eggs to reward yourself for your late night study session. But in a few hours, all that grease and fat will leave you feeling sluggish and tired; two things you definitely don’t need during finals.

In fact, most Americans don’t get the proper nutrients they need from their breakfast. Sugary cereals, animal fat and white bread are too often the source of what people eat for breakfast. And while certain commercial breakfast foods like these claim to be a good source of calcium or protein, they really aren’t the kind of food you should be starting your day with.

On top of that, 31 million Americans are reported to skip breakfast each day, says a report by the Huffington Post. That’s 18% of females and 28% of males aged 18-34. For more info on these stats and other breakfast-related data, check out this nifty visualization I put together myself:


The news site Global Post reported in an article titled “Why Should College Students Eat Breakfast?” that eating a healthy breakfast allows students to concentrate more fully, especially before exams.

“College kids can think, learn and test better as well as control their weight by eating — not skipping — breakfast.”

A PDF published by Duke University lists the benefits of starting your day by eating a healthy breakfast:

  • Improved memory and academic performance
  • Improved ability to maintain weight loss
  • Improved consumption of important nutrients such as fiber and calcium
  • Feeling less hungry throughout the day

The important thing to remember about a healthy breakfast is that you get out what you put in. If you intake sugary cereals, chocolate chip muffins and hash browns, you’re going to feel like (pardon my French) shit later that night when you cannot stay alert. But, if you put protein and healthy carbohydrates into your body, you’ll have the energy and motivation to study all day.

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I asked a few students why they thought breakfast was such a crucial part of one’s diet. Junior Elizabeth Harris said,

“I never miss eating breakfast because it’s the most important meal of the day.”

She also said she usually sticks to a carbohydrate of some sort, such as cereal or a bagel.

“I can’t not eat breakfast, or else I don’t feel good,” said junior student Nikki Check. “I usually eat either a hard boiled egg with hot sauce or grab a granola bar.”

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health says that in order for a breakfast to be healthy, you should incorporate 2-3 foods, including at least one from each of the following food groups:

  • Bread and grain (i.e.cereal, toast, muffin)
  • Milk and milk product (i.e. low-fat yogurt, low-fat milk)
  • Fruit or vegetable group (i.e bananas, apples, carrots)

If you’re looking for ways to switch up your morning breakfast routine or need some healthy inspiration, check out this list of healthy breakfast recipes for busy mornings by greatist.com.

Eating a healthy breakfast is how you should start every day, not just during finals week. And unfortunately, breakfast alone won’t boost your grades (sorry guys). But if you start exam day with a healthy meal, you’ll end up with a much better final grade.

Up all night: energy drinks and finals week

November and December hold my two favorite holidays. With Thanksgiving down, we’re in the most festive time of year. Everyone is setting up their lights, the snow is starting to fall and you can’t walk into a store without hearing Christmas songs on repeat. Dare I say it, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

But as we near the end of the year, it also brings around everyone’s least favorite time: Finals Week.

Late-night cram sessions and all-nighters are abound during these next two weeks and most students survive on caffeinated drinks to get them through the day or night. The markets start selling out of Red Bull, Monster and 5 Hour Energy as students prepare for the long nights ahead of them.

And of course we all know this isn’t exactly a healthy habit, but it’s finals week and those B’s need to magically turn into A’s when you walk out of that exam room. So, you justify your means and say to yourself, “I just have to get through finals,” as you set down your second Red Bull of the night.

The problem lies with students not realizing the side effects that come with consuming a large amount of caffeine, particularly in the form of energy drinks, in such a short amount of time. Sure, energy drinks can provide you with the energy you need to stay awake all night. But the side effects and health threats they pose do nothing but harm you.

For starters, energy drinks as a whole aren’t good for you. They have tons of sugar and chemicals which your body does not need for obvious reasons. On top of that, however, is the high concentration of caffeine, which can really add up the more you consume in a short amount of time.

The Mayo Clinic says that consuming too much caffeine, can lead to the following:

  • Nervousness
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Increased blood pressure

Most of these symptoms can be felt by consuming even one or two of these drinks, particularly when you’re running on little to no sleep.

Cardiovascular risks are another major concern when it comes to drinking energy drinks. Health information website SecondsCount.org published an article on these risks. They found that heart palpitations were a serious risk for those drinking a large amount of energy drinks:

According to one study, 19 percent of college students who used energy drinks had experienced heart palpitations.

That number may not seem like a lot, but that’s pretty high for young college students having an issue with their heart because of energy drinks.

Personally, I can’t stand energy drinks. I admit, I am a coffee addict and thrive on caffeine to get me through the day. But I always find that energy drinks upset my stomach, purely from the amount of sugar and chemicals in them.

My boyfriend Ryan, a junior in college, doesn’t drink coffee on a regular basis (which leads to many arguments between us on the definition of “coffee addiction”). I asked him his preferred poison to help get him through finals week, and this is what he had to say:

I always go with a cup of coffee to give me energy during finals week. I don’t drink coffee often but I’d much rather drink that than an energy drink. Plus, since I don’t drink it on a regular basis, the caffeine affects me more than some people who drink it every day.

I’m ignoring that jab and taking the personal victory of knowing coffee was chosen over energy drinks.

So when you’re trying to stay awake to learn a semester’s worth of psychology information, keep in mind how many energy drinks you’re consuming. My final verdict: energy drinks may provide you with energy to get through finals. But that’s nothing a good cup of coffee can’t do.

Hitting the bars

When it comes to healthier foods that are a college staple, granola bars are a must. They’re compact, tasty and most students would tell you they are all healthy. But that’s not necessarily true.

Granola bars are a particularly tricky food item. People generally think of them as a healthy food option without thinking twice. And while a lot of them are healthy, many are packed with sugar, thus canceling out any benefits. The website Women’s Cycling.ca said,

“Companies like Quaker, Kellogg and Special K do an excellent job marketing granola bars as a healthy, low-calorie alternative to cookies and chocolate but if you read the nutritional labels carefully you’ll see they’re high in sugar, fat and sodium.”

With literally thousands of options out there, it’s hard to decipher which are healthy and which are more like a sugary treat. Especially with misleading flavors (you’re telling me chocolate chip cookie dough is a healthy flavor?), you really have to know how to read nutrition labels and know what is considered good and bad for your body.

When choosing a granola bar that’s right for you, it’s important to know what you want out of your bar. Are you looking for a large intake of protein? Or are you searching for an option low in sodium and high in fiber? Once you know what your body needs, you can pick a bar that is best for you.

I decided to do a little research myself and compare popular granola bars to see how each stacked up against the competition. Statista.com provided me with a list of 2013’s 10 leading granola bar brands of the US, and I added a few other bars I know to be pretty popular, particularly for college students.

Depending on what you need in your diet will drastically change your choice in granola bar. So decide what you’re looking for and see which popular granola bars are the best fit for you.

Click here to see my nutrition comparison between bars.

Let’s start with the biggest culprit, sugar.

Too much sugar in commercial granola bars is the easiest way to turn a healthy snack or meal replacement into a granola-candy bar. Before you choose your granola bar, take a look at the amount of sugar it contains. MedicineNet.com recommends looking for less than 35% of the calories coming from sugar. To put that into more relatable terms, the popular granola bar Nature Valley Crunchy Oats ‘n Honey has 190 calories per package (2 bars). It contains 12 grams of sugar, which comes out to only 25% of the calories coming from sugar. Here’s a breakdown of that math for you:

  1. Take grams of sugar (12) multiplied by 4 (the number of calories per gram of sugar) = 48 calories from sugar
  2. Divide 48 calories from sugar by total calories (190) to get .25
  3. Remember that your 6th grade math teacher taught you that decimals turn into percentages by moving the decimal two spots to the right, equalling 25%

Now that I’ve reaffirmed your choice in not choosing a career in math, let’s move on to protein.

As a general rule of thumb, a healthy granola bar should have at least 5 grams of protein. No math this time, just look for the number 5 next to protein on the label. And if that number is higher, great. Especially for athletes and people doing intense activities, protein is a must to keep energy up. If you aren’t an athlete, look for a decent amount of protein, but not too much, as protein adds up in calories.

The same is generally the rule when it comes to fiber as well. Fiber helps your digestive system stay on track, so consuming a higher amount is a good thing. Health website Greatest.com suggests,

“Look for bars that are high in fiber (containing at least 5 of the 14 recommended grams per day), which can prolong that full feeling and possibly reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol.”

As most of us know, sodium = bad. Granola bars may not seem like a salt-heavy snack, especially compared to pretzels or chips, but they can have more sodium than you’d expect in them. Look for the daily percentage of sodium your bar is giving you and make sure it isn’t unreasonably high for a snack or breakfast bar.

So next time you go to grab a granola bar for breakfast or a mid-day snack, know exactly what you are putting into your body and whether it is doing more harm than good.

Thanks(for)giving me a healthier feast

The countdown is on: less than one week until the gloriously delicious holiday known as Thanksgiving.

This year, I’m thankful for a multitude of things, my health being one of them. With a delicate balance of eating right and staying active in college, I like to think I live a pretty healthy life. I’m not one to stuff my face with food or lay around on the couch all day in my pajamas. Normally.

But Thanksgiving is my “day off” when it comes to balancing my eating habits with working out. I’ve just gotten home after a long and stressful semester and nothing sounds more appealing than endless amounts of mom’s homemade mashed potatoes, turkey, stuffing, sweet potato casserole and so much more. All of which I plan on enjoying without feeling an ounce of guilt.

One of my favorite health websites, Greatist.com, posted in an article that we typically consume 3,000-4,500 calories on Thanksgiving (Also, check out their amazing illustrated guide on planning a healthy week leading up to Thanksgiving. These people are doing everything right). But even though I fully plan on overindulging on my favorite meal of the year, there are a few things I do to cut out unnecessary calories, fats and sugars on Thanksgiving.

Keep the gravy light

Yes, I know, gravy is fantastic and savory and should be given a holiday of its own in my book, but watch how much you pour on your plate. All that fat can really add up. And since gravy is so full of flavor, a little goes a long way.

Don’t forget your veggies

Personally, I love veggies so this one is easy for me. I always take two servings of my mom’s green bean casserole or whatever other vegetables we have on the table. Don’t load up on too much turkey before you make your way to the healthier dishes, and remember that mashed potatoes do not count as a vegetable.

Light is better than dark

If you have a preference on light or dark meat, this may not sway your opinion. But according to an article by WBAY Action News, dark meat has about 15% more calories than white meat. They also say,

“if you want to save a few calories, you need to remove the skin, but not until after the turkey is cooked […] Removing the skin saves another 10 percent in calories.”

I recommend sticking with white meat but if you need your fix of dark, have just a little bit.

Pass the rolls

With all the delicious Thanksgiving food in front of me, I find it hard to believe that anyone would opt for a dinner roll over a scoop of cranberry sauce or stuffing. Rolls aren’t anything special so I usually pass on them all together. The extra bread is unnecessary, empty calories that I prefer to put towards other feast foods.


I’m not even going to try to say “skip the dessert” because let’s be honest, who am I trying to kid? My suggestion is to keep portions on dessert small. If you’re feeling full from dinner, wait a little on dessert. There’s no need to force yourself to eat when that pie will be just as mouthwatering in an hour or so.

If you’re anything like me, you are now counting down the hours until you can tuck into a homemade Thanksgiving dinner. Just keep these healthy tips in the back of your mind and you might not have to spend as much time on the treadmill when you get back to school.

You can bet there is no way in hell I will be counting calories on Thanksgiving. After all, do you think the Pilgrims made peace with the Native Americans all those years ago with the notion of skipping pumpkin pie because they ate one too many scoops of mashed potatoes? I highly doubt it.

Protein powerhouse

So my last blog post got me into a bit of trouble…

In my post about how to make coffee healthier, I happened to mention my lifelong addiction to coffee and how it fuels me on a daily basis. After proudly telling my boyfriend about my article, he proceeded to lecture me on my addiction and ultimately bet me that I couldn’t go a measly week without drinking coffee (all forms of caffeine were later added to the stakes). I took the bet, just to spite him, and decided he needed to lose something he thrived on for a week as well.

I challenged him to give up eggs and all meat, except chicken, for one week.

As a mostly vegetarian, I wanted him to see what it was like to step in my shoes for a week and give up most meat and animal byproducts. Which led to our discussion on my boyfriend’s biggest concern about the next few days:

“How can I get an adequate amount of protein on a mostly vegetarian diet?”

As a longtime flexitarian (definition of a flexitarian here), I have had to find new ways to get protein so that I’m not always eating the same foods. It has proved especially challenging since I came to college and am limited to dining halls and what I can afford to buy at the grocery store. For meat-eaters (like my coffee-hating boyfriend), it can sometimes be intimidating to learn how to cook meat for the first time. And we all know grilled chicken and burnt hamburgers from the dining hall have gotten old by this point.

Good sources of protein can sometimes be a little more expensive, but they go a long way in the end.

Nuts and nut butters

Personally, peanut butter is my absolute favorite source of protein. I like to spread a little (or a lot) on my toast, bananas and oatmeal for extra flavor and protein. A scoop of nuts such as almonds or walnuts are a perfect snack with just the right amount of protein. Just make sure not to eat too much, as peanut butter and other nuts and nut butters are high in calories and fat.


Unless it’s in the form of hummus, I have never been a huge fan of these little nuggets of protein. However, they are high in protein and fiber while being low in calories. And fortunately for me, hummus can be a healthy dip or spread on a delicious veggie wrap.

Chia seeds

Within the past few months, I have been adding chia seeds to various foods to add extra protein to my meals. If you didn’t already know, there is more protein in chia than any other nutritional grain. I like to put chia seeds on everything from salads to smoothies, and granola with milk or yogurt.


You’ve probably heard about quinoa becoming increasingly popular as a healthy alternative to rice, pasta and oatmeal. Not only does it contain an adequate amount of protein, but it goes above and beyond. Health.com says,

“[Quinoa] is unique in that it contains more than 8 grams [of protein] per cup, including all nine essential amino acids that the body needs for growth and repair, but cannot produce on its own. (Because of that, it’s often referred to as a ‘perfect protein.’)”

Try replacing quinoa in any dishes you would typically put rice or pasta in for a protein-packed meal.

So now I am challenging you to give up meat for a week and get your protein in alternate forms. Wish me luck on the rest of my coffee-free week as I put up with my protein-seeking boyfriend. And may the odds be ever in your favor.

No sugar tonight in my coffee


Even typing the word warms me up and gives me that all-too familiar buzz I have to start every day with. As an avid coffee drinker (and by that, I mean a religious addict), I know that coffee can be the only way to start the day for a large portion of the population.

I started drinking coffee (with ungodly amounts of creamer) when I was extremely young and fully blame my parents for my current addiction. But for many, college seems to be a popular time when students pick up their first cup and enter into a dark roasted world they may never return from. From staying up until 4 in the morning to write a paper, to all-night exam cram sessions, many college students rely on coffee to keep their energy up.

“I’m more of a tea drinker but I’ll drink coffee sometimes in the morning if I need to wake myself up for class,” junior student Hayley Glantz told me. “Other times, I will drink it late at night if I need to stay awake to study for an exam.”

According to a study done by the National Coffee Association (yes, that is an actual organization), 54% of Americans aged 18 or older drink coffee on a daily basis, with 40% of college students, aged 18-24, consuming coffee daily.

Personally, I was shocked at how low this percentage was. It seems to me that one of the most popular accessories for college students is a cup of coffee in their hand. What didn’t surprise me, however, were the stats on the usage of coffee creamer.

The statistics-reporting website Statistic Brain reported that 62% of coffee drinkers put creamer in their coffee.

When you look at the nutrition labels on coffee creamer, you might notice that there aren’t too many calories per serving. Most serving sizes, however, are around 1 tablespoon per serving, which is a lot less than most people put in their coffee. And with those calories comes high amounts of sugar and fat.

Let me make this clear: I am absolutely addicted to coffee and do not condemn anyone who drinks it. While I do put flavored creamer in my coffee, I really try to watch how much I use when making it myself. Here are a few guidelines for making your morning coffee a little healthier:

  • Use the recommended serving size to keep track of calories, sugar and fat
  • Use fat free, low fat or sugar free creamer
  • Try using flavored soy, almond or coconut milk instead

Still looking for specifics on how basic coffee creamers, milk and half & half products stack up? Check out this informational PDF from cspinet.org to see a side-by-side comparison of nutrition facts.

The bigger problem when it comes to coffee consumption is the lack of knowledge on how much sugar and fat are going into your drink when you don’t make it yourself. I talked to sophomore Allison Clifton, a barista at one of my school’s cafes. Clifton said,

“A lot of people have the misconception that it’s just coffee and it’s not as high in calories.”

Keeping an eye on sugar intake may seem like a lot of work, but there are several things you can to cut down when ordering coffee from your favorite coffee shop.

Skip the whip

When the barista asks if you want whipped cream on your drink, just say no. Skipping the whipped cream cuts down on a lot of extra sugar and empty calories. This simple step can easily make your drink a lot healthier.

Order the skinny version

Tell the barista you want a “skinny” version of your favorite drink. This means cutting down on the fat and calories, and many of the most popular drinks are 100 calories or less for a tall. Try the tall, skinny peppermint mocha, vanilla latte, cappuccino or any iced flavored latte.

Go with skim or non-fat milk

Whenever you order a drink that includes milk, the go-to milk most cafes use is 2%, which has more fat than skim or non-fat milk. A lot of coffee establishments even offer soy, almond or coconut milk if you prefer a non-dairy option.

Try iced, not frap

Frappuccinos are notorious for having a crazy amount of sugar in them, since it’s basically a coffee-flavored milkshake. Opt for an iced drink, rather than a frap, which will eliminate a large amount of calories.

When kept in healthy proportions, coffee can actually be good for you. And if you’re anything like me, this post certainly won’t get you to quit your addiction. But if you really want to reap all the benefits of coffee, leave out a little more cream and sugar to make room for a little more coffee.

Simple staples

How many of you think of bland, boring broccoli or slimy, steamed spinach when I bring up the thought of eating vegetables? If the word “gross” comes to your mind at the mere notion, then I feel sorry for you.

The problem with many people not eating healthy meals on their own is because they think of plain and unflavored food. Not all college students know how to properly prepare vegetables, meat and seafood to make it more appealing than microwave pizza or pasta. By adding key ingredients to your food, you can easily transform boring food into a delicious and nutritious meal.

Lemon and lemon pepper

Asparagus, chicken, shrimp, you name it. Adding a spritz of lemon or a dash of lemon pepper to basic recipes can add so much flavor to your meal. Both are cheap and easy to have on hand in a house or dorm room. I always keep a bottle of lemon juice in the fridge and lemon pepper above the stove to quickly add to whatever I’m making for a little extra sumpin’ sumpin’.

Hot sauce

Quite possibly my favorite way to spice up a simple recipe (yes, I went there), health foods included. Buffalo, Tobasco, sriracha, Cholula, there are so many options to chose from based on your personal preference. I’m a die-hard supporter of Frank’s extra hot buffalo wing sauce and fully believe that adding it to ANY food (pasta, hummus and carrots all included) instantly makes it 1,000 times better. Try this easy recipe I pinned from the blog Umami Holiday for buffalo cauliflower.


If hot sauce isn’t my Number One, parmesan certainly is. I admit, sometimes I tend to go a little overboard with the parm, but sprinkle just a little on healthy foods and the flavor will make you forget you’re eating veggies. Eggplant, tilapia, tomatoes, zucchini and broccoli are all foods that taste amazing with just a dash of parm baked on top. Personally, I like to pop my own healthy popcorn and toss it with grated parmesan for a savory and healthy snack.

Olive oil

Olive oil is one of my favorite ingredients to cook vegetables in. Sprinkling just a tad in a skillet or on a baking sheet to cook your veggies in gives a crisp and refreshing texture to your food, while also adding more flavor than butter. Be careful not to go overboard with the olive oil, though. Too much will saturate your food and take the nutrition out of what you are eating.

The kitchn, a blog on all things homely, has created this list of eight ways to make steamed vegetables taste amazing, which includes these key ingredients and more to change up the way you cook your vegetables.

Keeping these simple staples in your kitchen or dorm can help add tons of flavor to vegetables and meat, which can really help you eat healthier. A little flavor can go a long way. And when done right, you won’t even realize you’re eating a nutritious meal.

College dining halls have plenty of options for everyone

Dining halls 101

Dining halls: quite possibly the biggest blessing and curse you will encounter throughout your college career.

Think about it: when you first got to college, you probably gorged on the endless pizza, burgers and ice cream served at the dining halls. All that delicious food at your fingertips and no one to remind you that fries don’t count as a vegetable. And while it was great for the first couple of weeks, the appeal of dining hall food will soon wear off once you realize your favorite comfort food will be there for the rest of the year.

When I first came to college, I always wanted to have a little bit of everything. All the food looked too good to pass up. And since I was used to only having certain foods every once in a while at home, I figured I needed to make the most of it and grab a side of mac n cheese with my buffalo chicken fingers.

Establishing healthy eating habits during your first year or two of college can help now, as well as when you live on your own as an upperclassman. Doing your own grocery shopping is a lot like choosing food in a dining hall: junk food may seem like a more appealing option, but buying healthy food will come naturally if you continue to stick to a plan.

Even upperclassmen will agree that dining halls will change your eating habits. Junior student Ryan Bush is living in a house for the first time this year, and says it is a lot easier to make healthy decisions after learning how to eat at the dining hall for two years.

“Because I have to go to Kroger and buy my own groceries, it makes me choose more nutritious food that I need, instead of unhealthy foods that I want.”

Bush agreed with me that the best way to tackle the dining halls is to go in with a game plan. And since most dining halls follow a similar weekly menu, you should always know what to expect.

Here are a few guidelines to follow when deciding what to eat at the dining halls.

Plan your meal

Just like when you are buying groceries, if you decide what to eat before walking into the dining hall, you are much more likely to stick to your plan of eating a healthy meal. All that comfort food in front of you can look tempting, but it is much easier to ignore when you figure out a balanced meal beforehand.

“The hardest part about eating in the dining hall is probably figuring out how to not eat the same every day”

-Marin Vatske, freshman

Most dining halls also have their daily menu posted online so you can see what your options are instead of eating the same thing every day.

Pick at least one fruit and vegetable 

Filling up on fruits and vegetables can help ensure you won’t eat too much junk food. Make it a goal to have at least one serving of each, and put them on your plate before any other dish. That way, you can make sure you are getting adequate servings of healthy foods.

Be wary of the salad bar

Lots of toppings and dressings are less healthy than you’d think. Adding extras like croutons, cheese and creamy dressing adds little to no nutritional value to your salad, therefore defeating the purpose of it. Keep the cheese and dressing light and try to only add veggies and fruit to your dish.

Skip the dessert

Eating dessert shouldn’t be part of your daily routine. Extra sugar after an already unhealthy meal will take away any energy you will need to study for exams or do homework. Instead, make dessert something you only get on special occasions. And if you are in the mood for a little something sweet, try healthier options like fro-yo or jello with a dollop of whipped cream.

Lucky for us, most colleges today offer a wide variety of healthy options for students, making it much easier to switch up your diet. Check out Niche’s rankings on the best campus food to see how your school ranks.

Choosemyplate.gov also has a great list of 10 tips for healthy eating in the dining halls, which includes 10 easy tricks to remember whenever you eat at the dining hall, or even when you are planning meals for yourself in your house or apartment.

Dining halls may be a contributing factor the the infamous Freshman 15, but they don’t have to be. As long as you stick to a plan of eating healthy, balanced meals, you’ll be able to tackle the dining halls and come out victoriously.

Go for the goal

When I came to college, I immediately noticed the abundance of deliciously unhealthy food at my fingertips. At first, it was tough walking by the dessert section of my dining hall and not grabbing a cupcake, or opting for pizza every other day of the week. But pretty quickly I noticed myself on the fast track to gaining the dreaded Freshman 15 and knew I needed to make a change.

That change started in the form of setting personal eating goals.

Setting daily and weekly goals for yourself is one of the best ways to watch what you eat. Not only can you limit yourself to not eat as much junk food, but it allows you to set healthier goals for yourself as well. And after a while, you will start to notice yourself making overall healthier choices.

The key is to make these goals attainable. While it is awesome to set high standards and challenge yourself, it can be much harder to stick to your plan if you make your goals unrealistic. Instead of cutting out certain foods all together, I suggest limiting the amount you eat per week. Or, when it comes to healthier foods, aim to eat more of a certain food group or type of food.

Here are some of my personal goals that I set freshman year and have continued throughout college:

  • After dinner, have either dessert or a late snack. Pick one. Not both.
  • Don’t eat pizza more than twice a week
  • Same with french fries
  • Eat at least one serving of fruit AND vegetables at lunch and dinner
  • Have a different serving of fruit and veggies for dinner than what you had for lunch
  • Skip dessert if you know you’ll be drinking that night

For me, all these goals were highly attainable. Sure, french fries are one of my favorite comfort foods, but I don’t need to eat them more than twice a week. Dining halls make unhealthy food easily accessible, so set limits based on food you know you consume often.

Even this year when I don’t have a dining hall meal plan, I make sure to continue following these rules when I shop for and prepare meals for myself. I buy several options of fruit and vegetables at the grocery store so that I’m not eating bananas twice a day for three days straight. I intentionally don’t buy too many sweets so that I’m not tempted to eat them every day.

If you’re having trouble knowing where to start, follow the guidelines set out by the President’s Challenge or GroupHealth, both of which specify simple ways to make healthier choices when it comes to your eating habits. I guarantee these easy switches will help you find ways to set new goals for yourself.

So make yourself a list. Tell your roommates about it so they can encourage you. And most importantly, stick to your goals! Know that just because you break one rule doesn’t mean you have to give everything up completely. We all make mistakes; but the key is to stick with your goals until you achieve them.


Getting a degree in (farmers) marketing

I used to think farmers markets were for tree-hugging hippies and crazy, health nut moms. You know, the kind of people who only eat all-natural, all-organic, dairy-free, gluten-free, soy everything. And while they do offer the all-nautral, homemade and organic foods I tend to associate with hippies and health-crazy moms, farmers markets have fresh produce and goods that anyone can enjoy.

When it comes to buying the healthiest and freshest fruits and vegetables, the first place your should check out is your local farmers market. A trip to your farmers market is a great and easy way for anyone, including college students, to get the best quality fruits and vegetables, usually at a better price than the grocery store.

So in order to do some research for my blog post, I decided to visit my local farmers market to see what foods they had, and to talk to the vendors about growing and selling healthy produce.

I started off by using the website LocalHarvest to find where my nearest farmers market was. I was surprised to find out it was actually right around the corner, held every Wednesday and Saturday. LocalHarvest is a great tool for anyone looking to find the nearest farmers market, or to learn more about what to expect at a farmers market. After getting info on when and where the closest vendors meet, I headed over to the Athens Farmers Market.

Not only did they have a great variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables, but a lot of the vendors also had homemade breads, pastries, jams, honey and other baked goods. Even Casa Nueva, a local restaurant known for using fresh, locally grown ingredients, was there selling handmade salsas.

I was happily surprised to see that many of the vendors were selling organic produce. I talked to a woman (who wished to remain anonymous) from Amesville, Ohio who grows and sells her own all-natural, no-chemical produce. I asked her about the benefits of shopping at farmers markets, as well as what people should remember when going to their local market. Listen to what she had to say here:

As mentioned in my previous previous blog post, “Romaine on a Ramen budget,” shopping at nearby farmers markets is healthy for you, the environment and your community.

Healthy for you

Most food sold at markets has been picked within the past 24 hours, meaning it is a lot fresher than any produce found in grocery stores. You get the most vitamins, minerals and nutrients out of your fruits and veggies when they are eaten right after being picked.

Healthy for the environment

Buying locally grown produce means it hasn’t been shipped in from out of state. Shipping anything pollutes the environment, putting harmful chemicals back into the air, water and soil used to grow the fruits and vegetables you eat.

Healthy for your community

There’s no better way to support your community than by buying produce straight from your neighbors. 100% of the money you spend goes back into your community, rather than to big, chain grocery stores. And since there isn’t any cost to have food shipped in from out of state, the majority of sellers have lower prices than stores (AKA, us college students can afford it!).

And if these reasons aren’t enough to convince you to check out a farmers market near you, read Nutrition.gov’s list covering the top 10 reasons to shop at a farmers market.

After my trip to the farmers market, I realized what a great resource it is for students who want to eat healthy, local food at a decent price. I think the biggest problem is that students don’t realize how easy access to fresh produce is.

I asked a couple of students if they had ever shopped at a farmers market in college, and why or why not. As a health major and farmers market frequenter, junior Megan Shuki said,

The quality of the food is better because it’s locally grown, so the food isn’t being packaged and shipped all over.

On the other hand, junior Michelle LaVan told me she had never gone to a farmers market before, saying,

When I think of a farmers market, I think of locally grown fruits, vegetables and meat products all being more expensive just because they are so much healthier and most are probably organic.

After telling students these concerns actually aren’t true at all, they are always pleasantly surprised to hear that they can easily buy fresh food without breaking the bank.

If I could give one piece of advice to students, or anyone in general, on how to eat healthier  without spending too much money, checking out your local farmers market would be my first tip. Not only does buying local food allow you to invest in your community, but it is an investment in your own health as well.