College can be a stressful time for students, especially when preparing for an exam or a presentation. Eating a healthy balanced diet is key to giving your body the nutrients it needs to maintain energy levels and prevent you from feeling sick and rundown throughout the semester. The links below address some of the issues that students face when trying to make healthy food choices in stressful situations.
Students Under Stress
Nutrition and Lack of Time
Nutrition and Lack of Time
Most students feel stressed and sluggish when they don’t have enough time to eat between classes, work, or practice. Establishing a routine that allows you to include regular meals and snacks is important to prevent energy crashes throughout the day.
Here are some tips for healthy eating on the go:
Try to plan meals and snacks ahead of time, and bring an insulated lunch bag with you to store your perishable foods (like string cheese or yogurt for example) if needed. You can cut up fruits and vegetables ahead of time and store them in your refrigerator to snack on throughout the week. This may take some additional time but it’s usually cheaper than buying produce that is already chopped and packaged.
You can make your own trail mix with a mix of dried fruit and nuts for a snack that contains healthy carbohydrates, fat, and protein to keep you satisfied between meals.
When going home after a long day of school or work, it’s easy to eat the quickest and most accessible food you can find. Often times, this results in eating food with little to no nutrients, like chips, candy, or fast food. When cooking a meal, try to make an extra portion or two so that you will have leftovers to heat up as a quick meal or snack.
Leave the foods that are healthiest in the front of your refrigerator or cupboard so you are more likely to choose those foods first.
Taking turns cooking with your roommates or family can save time from having to cook at every meal.
If you live in a dorm room and do not have access to a kitchen, try to plan your schedule around meal times in the dining halls to prevent you from relying on snack foods in place of a meal. If this is not possible, keep foods like canned soups, fruit, nuts, peanut butter, bread, and oatmeal in your room so you always have healthy food options available. If you have a mini-fridge in your dorm room you can also store healthy snacks like yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, or veggies and hummus.
Click here for some quick and easy snack ideas that will give you energy on the go. (Link to recipe section)
Diet, Caffeine, and Academic Performance
What and when you eat has an effect on your energy levels and your academic performance. Skipping meals and cutting out certain food groups is not recommended unless for religion. Caffeine can also play a role in academic performance because of the effects it has on the body. Having a small amount of caffeine may help you focus, but too much caffeine can actually worsen test anxiety and cause jitters, headache, and a decrease in appetite. Cutting out caffeine abruptly however, can cause withdrawals that also cause side effects like headache, fatigue, anxiety, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. Therefore, it is best to wait until after an exam to change your caffeine intake. Consuming caffeine too late in the day can also make it hard to sleep at night so try to drink your last cup at least 6 hours before going to bed
These are some common beverages and foods that contain caffeine:
Tea (black, green, white); (herbal teas like peppermint, rooibos, and chamomile usually don’t have caffeine)
Espresso (cappuccino, latte)
Energy drinks (Redbull, Monster, 5-Hour Energy etc.)
Soda/diet soda (Coke, Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Dr. Pepper etc.)
Chocolate (Candy bars, ice cream, beverages, hot chocolate)
Over-the-counter pills (Excedrin Migraine, Bayer Back & Body, Zantrex-2 weight-loss supplement)
Beverages like coffee and tea have more caffeine content based on the strength and the brand. For example, Starbucks coffee has 260 mg of caffeine in one 12 oz. cup (tall size) compared to a 12 oz. cup that you would make at home with 100-160 mg of caffeine, depending on how strong you brew the pot of coffee. A moderate amount of caffeine is generally recognized as safe for most adults, which is about 200-300 mg per day or about 2-3 cups of coffee.
Click here to see the caffeine content in common food and beverages.http://www.cspinet.org/new/cafchart.htm
For more information read the tips under “nutrition and lack of time” section.