“I teach a lot of classes with college kids and I counsel them,” Young said. “And at a lot of the dining halls it’s very social, so they just sit and eat and keep going back for more. They sit there and hang out, and they eat with one group and then another group comes in and they hang out with the other group and before you know it they’re eating again.” It’s not like you can’t hang out with your friends, though. To work around this habit, young has a simple piece of advice…
“Be conscious. Make the decision that you’re going to eat once,” Young said. “If you want to hang out, hang out, but try putting a piece of gum in your mouth after you eat.”
“Things like breads, pasta and rice, I’m not saying that they should avoid them completely,” Young said. “I’m saying that they really need to watch their portion size. That’s very important.”
“If there are whole grains, you want to go for that,” Young said. “And if you want to do a starch, pick one. I say this because a lot of these kids decide to be vegetarian—or their own definition of what vegetarian is—but when they say I’m not eating meat, they end up eating starch all day. So if you go into the dining hall and they have rice, pasta and bread, just pick one.” Aim to balance the rest of your plate with colorful vegetables and lean protein sources, which includes everything from fish and chicken to beans, lentils and other legumes.
It should hardly come as a surprise that fried foods aren’t the best option when you’re aiming for optimal nutrition. On campus you’ll likely be bombarded with dishes like wings, pizza, mozzarella sticks and French fries, but Young says that for the majority of the time you should avoid those foods. They’re something you can have on occasion, but on a day-to-day basis there are more nutritious options you can stick with.
Lean options from the grill or the oven that aren’t drenched in extra oil or other additives are your best bet for avoiding extra calories and building a balanced, nutritious plate.
“Heavy sauces mean calories, period,” Young said. “Whether it’s sugar or whether it’s fat, it’s going to mean extra calories. If you make a sauce at home, you know what’s in it, but when you’re eating a sauce out then you don’t know what’s in it.”
Young suggests options like steamed veggies or as mentioned earlier, foods from the grill that don’t have any extra ingredients. “It doesn’t have to just be steamed,” she said. “But aim for as plain as possible.” And when you do want to add a bit of flavor with dressings or sauces, ask for them on the side that way you can control the portion, which is normally just one or two tablespoons.