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Many college students find themselves pressed for time, under stress due to academic commitments and are left eating many of their meals on the go.  How can most of these meals be more nutritious?

Here are several simple tips to improve the nutrient content of your meals and snacks without taking too much time.

  1. Start the day with breakfast. Grab a bagel with nut butter and a piece of fruit or a cup of juice. These items can be stored in residential halls.
  2. Keep healthy snacks on hand. Consider fresh or dried fruit, nuts, pretzels, popcorn, whole wheat crackers, or cut vegetables such as carrots, celery, or peppers with hummus. 
  3. Limit your sugar intake. Try sweetening coffee drinks and tea with sugar substitutes such as Stevia. 
  4. When dining out, look for healthier options. Menu terms that indicate healthier options include baked, grilled, braised, steamed, broiled, poached, and roasted. Menu items that usually mean the food contains higher amounts of saturated fat are battered, buttered, breaded, creamy, crispy, or pan-fried. Choose a side salad or cup of fruit over fries, and ask for sauces, dressings, and toppings on the side. 
  5. Plan on eating only half of the meal. Many take out and restaurant portions are larger than we need for one meal. On those occasions, consider asking for a box at the beginning of your meal, and taking half to go for another meal. 
  6. Order one dessert for the table and share. A small taste of a sweet can be enough to satisfy our sweet tooth.
  7. Boost sandwich nutrition. Add lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, onions, and other vegetables to sandwiches and wraps. 
  8. Avoid “all you can eat” specials and buffets. We ALL tend to overeat when food is free! Learn to listen to cues from your body regarding hunger and feeling full. 
  9. Limit alcohol intake. Alcohol tends to increase our appetite, is high in calories, and contains no nutritional value.
  10. Avoid supersized meals and soda. Stick with either unsweetened tea or water. Also, many establishments will allow adults to order the kid’s meals. 
  11. Drink plenty of water. Get in the habit of carrying a water bottle with you and drinking frequently throughout the day for optimal hydration.
  12. Never be afraid to ask! It is always OK to ask about how a dish is prepared, or if you can make special changes to fit your needs. 
  13. Think about your meals and choices for the entire day. You may be having a special dinner out, or a lunch meeting, or know you will have to skip a meal during the day. Planning ahead can ensure you are prepared with enough food for the day.

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Image Credit: Jonathan Borba on Unsplash