University Tips - Eat Your Way to Success

Many college students show signs of nutritional imbalances when they leave for college or university for the first time. This is very common for young people who are not used to cooking and shopping for themselves in order to eat a balanced diet. They are used to parents cooking and shopping and have not really considered the thought that goes into preparing meals for the family every day
Their studies can suffer as they can feel unwell and lack focus and concentration when they are starting a very important time of their lives when their whole career path can be determined.. Any signs of this should be addressed as soon as possible if they are to enjoy university and studying to the full.
It is important to see whether their life style changes since university have bought on these symptoms.They must first see their doctor to check for any underlying medical complaint before making changes to their diets to alleviate their symptoms. The inability to concentrate can add to a students stress at being away from home and increase the likelihood to opt for easy fast food rather than eating a balanced diet
A food diary of their intake will identify an abnormally high intake of foods containing simple sugars probably due to the fact that they are convenient to both buy and eat. These foods are sugary snacks, alcohol, caffeinated drinks and jams all which are empty calories containing very little nutritional value.
These simple sugars are being used to keep energy levels up. These sugars are processed and rapidly enter the bloodstream leading to a sugar rush. Without eating enough food with protein and vitamins and micronutrients the appetite increases for even more sugary snacks to get through the day with positive feelings after eating them. However, these feelings ares short lived and lead to a 'crash' whereby a tired and weak feeling occurs as the sugars leave the body as rapidly as they entered the bloodstream. This leads to a continually cycle of needing more simple sugar which is leading to a general feeling of malaise.

Without intervention this will lead to future health problems as simple sugars have little nutritional value and high calories. The sugar spikes occur with a blood glucose imbalance. The symptoms are linked to having periods of low blood sugar level whereby insulin is released to lower blood sugar. The body cannot cope with this amount of sugar so it releases too much insulin, which results in low blood sugar leading to dizziness and inability to concentrate.
In time it could lead to Type-2 diabetes and damages to health problems such as sensory and vascular damage, which can affect many organs particularly, damage to the eyes. This damage can be irreversible so it is important to make immediate dietary changes
The best dietary advice for students is to eat little and often to avoid sugar spikes. Plan your snacks in advance to ensure that you have food with you with high nutritional value and lower sugar content. They are advised to cut out cakes, biscuits, sweets, chocolate and fizzy drinks altogether and stick to pieces of fruit,yoghurt or yoghurt smoothies and to drink water and herbal teas when possible. Other possibilities of snacks are packets of raisins or handful of almonds all easily available from supermarkets and able to be stored in the cupboard for a long time.
Even with limited cooking skills, breakfast is an important part of the day and doesn't require much cooking. They could buy a packet of mixed grain muesli or high fibre cereal, wholemeal bread or boiled eggs to get off to a good start to the day. This combined with drinking plenty of water will help.

Cutting out white bread with little nutritional value and instead buying wholemeal pitta bread to have with hummus and salad or buy some tins of tuna and mix with kidney beans, olives and salad to make a delicious light supper. Other easy foods are scrambled eggs with mushrooms, cold chicken or baked potatoes with prawns and cottage cheese all easily available from the shops. A glass of low-fat milk is a valuable source of calcium and easy to drink when they gets home from college
Alcohol has little nutritional value and is high in sugar so it would be best avoided or stick to only one glass of wine per evening to be sociable if necessary. Often a grapefruit juice and soda or mineral water with ice can be refreshing and made to last for the evening. It may be fun to get a group of students to cook together some evenings and therefore share the cost and work of a hot dinner at home.
My main advice to students with nutritional problems would be share with them a healthy eating chart showing the range of food needed to eat daily and then offering simple recipes to increase the produce eaten. It may also be helpful for them to join some sports clubs such as badminton to socialise and to increase their fitness levels. There will always be times when it is necessary to buy food that is quick to prepare. There are now some healthy options available in the supermarket such as 'Covent Garden' soup range, that have very little additives and are full of lentils and beans and vegetables ideal eaten hot or cold with a wedge of granary bread or a mixed salad. They can even be taken in a flask for a healthy lunch during the college day. Therefore with a bit of planning and advice the symptoms will diminish.


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