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A Nutrition Plan for College Students

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It has been very exciting this summer seeing many college kids from Orinda, Lafayette, Danville, San Ramon, Pleasanton and other surrounding towns (including my second daughter) that finally want to take responsibility for their nutrition and lose that weight in order to start college with a new image. They know Mom and Dad will not be around to provide meals where now they will be making their own food choices at the dorm, cafeteria or other spots on campus.

I am not surprised to see that many young students I see do not realize what balanced meals and snacks are. They often do not know how to read the food labels. They don’t understand there is so much more to a food label than just looking at calories such as looking at the more important food groups such as protein, fiber and sugar.

When I have talked with students before orientation I stress the importance of going to the dining facilities and see what is offered. Often my student clients will show me the college website where all the eating facilities and menus are listed. My job is to help them evaluate all the available foods and help design meal plans based on their class schedule. I am glad to see there is usually a Trader’s Joe’s or market close to campus. I will often take my student clients to a local market to help educate them about what are great meals and snacks for times that dining halls are closed which happens often on the weekend. On one of these recent tours my client Sam was excited to see that she could buy low fat macaroni and cheese and use it as a topping on broccoli which is also is available in a convenient steam bag option. We also looked at buying baked potatoes or sweet potatoes which can easily be cooked in her microwave in her room. She did not know that you must poke the potato with your fork a few times to prevent the potato from exploding making a big mess in the microwave. Sam liked the idea of topping it with Fage non fat yogurt which tastes like sour cream and is very popular with salsa. I also recommended instant low sugar oatmeal packets with a side of yogurt and fruit, all again easily available and very quick for a meal during study times.

During our market tour I showed Sam all the great soups that are hearty and high in protein and fiber such as Amy’s Lentil and Veggie Soup, Black Bean Soup or even Minestrone Soup. We learned how to look at soups and to be aware of how many servings there are in a can where she needed to multiply the protein and fiber by how many servings are listed on the food label. Lastly, we looked at buying baby carrots or hearts of celery as well and buying almond butter and using this as a great portable snack. I could see after our store visit Sam was very relieved that she could now manage her nutrition when left to buy her own foods at college which we all know happens more frequently after the freshmen year when they typically move outside the dorm to apartments and must purchase all their food for meals.

I like to make myself very available to these students by texting which is how they like to communicate. I often receive photos of their meals at restaurants or even pictures of the nutrition label of food packages, asking my opinion on whether I recommend it or not.

I see too many kids using protein shakes and bars and thinking that it is a meal after they workout. Yes, it might be good to repair their muscles but I find they end up being hungry soon after and do not make good choices when they are out and not at home. My suggestion is if they can, it is better to eat a high protein and fiber meal such as a veggie omelette or meat and baked potato topped with chili combinations. If they are in the midst of exams I stress go for the balanced meal instead of these shakes and bars which fills them up for hours.

The good news is that many of my nutritional counselling sessions with students is covered by health insurance. If you would like me to help you improve your nutrition knowledge and feel the best you can feel entering college please start keeping a food diary before you make an appointment. I promise you that this will be an experience that will change your young life.

Please feel free to call me at (925) 855-0150 or email me at Lifeweight1@yahoo.com about your nutrition concerns. Look at my website Linda-rd.com for a listing of insurance companies I am contracted with such as Aetna, Sutter, Blue Cross, ABMG, Hill, Health Net and others.