It seems like yesterday when I was leaving home for university. I was so excited to be free from rules and parents – and be in charge of my own life. The thought of a meal plan while I was in residence, however, was a little worrisome for me. How was I supposed to eat healthy when I had no say in my meals? As a parent, are you worried now that you’ve lost a little bit of your oversight in your kid’s food choices, about how your kid will fare?
Here are some tips that got me through my first year living away from home, which you can pass along to your new seeker of higher education. Healthy eating can be easy and fun – just wait and see.
Why should your son/daughter care about healthy eating?
- Provides energy for studying and extra-curricular activities
- Wards off the daunting “freshman 15”
- Keeps your immune system healthy while living in residence (aka “res”) so you don’t get sick during exam period
- Can be habit forming. The early a person has healthy eating habits the more likely they’ll stick with him/her in adulthood.
How can a student eat healthy while living in residence?
- Look for healthier options. Choose whole grains, darker greens (Romaine or Spinach instead of iceberg lettuce), fruit for dessert, lower fat milk and milk products, leaner cuts of meat (chicken, fish) and try meat alternatives (legumes, tofu)
- Be mindful of portion distortion. Review Canada’s Food Guide to learn appropriate serving sizes. If there is too much food on the plate, they share with a roommate or take some of the meal for lunch the next day.
- Try using the 1/2, 1/4, 1/4 plate method: fill ½ of the plate with veggies (salad, steamed vegetables, raw carrots and celery etc), ¼ with a protein choice (lean meat, chicken, fish, legumes) and ¼ with a carbohydrate (potato, rice, pasta). Check out this video:
- Make time for meals and make eating fun! Use meal times to take a break from the books and catch up with friends, roommates and floor-mates.
- Enjoy the variety and themed dinner options – try a new cuisine!
- Take advantage of not having to prepare meals and do the dishes for this year
- Explore different healthy options they may have never experienced while living at home, such as vegetarian meals or meals from a different country
What about off campus dining?
- Try to limit meals off campus. These establishments tend to serve less healthy options and are often more expensive than residence cafeteria options.
- Save these times for celebrating birthdays with roommates, or the end of midterm season
- Choose healthier options whenever possible (turkey burger on a whole grain bun with a side salad instead of hamburger and french fries) and order sauces and dressings on the side
What if your young student won’t be living in res?
- Take this time to increase culinary skills!
- Plan grocery shopping trips with roommates (split the cab fare) and use this time to get out of the house. Use the store flyers to budget.
- Plan a weekly/monthly dinner with roommates and try a new recipe
- Save time by preparing healthy snacks in advance – have fruit and veggies washed and cut ready to grab-and-go, put healthy snacks in a backpack for on campus.
- Experiment with healthier cooking options such as steaming, baking and broiling
- Remind them they can always call home for help!
Tips for increasing independence over healthy eating
- Check out the University/College resident dining website to make informed choices before going for dinner
- Keep healthy snacks such as yogurt, fruit and lower-fat granola bars in the res room to avoid running to the convenience store late at night
- Use a planner – map out the day and make sure there is time for meals and activity
- Incorporate 2-3 servings of dairy products daily – try a latte made with skim milk for an afternoon pick me up instead of a usual coffee
- Learn the difference between eating when hungry versus when bored or stressed
- Try reading nutritional labels to help make informed choices
See! That doesn’t seem too bad eh? By taking a bit of time to plan ahead and be aware of ways to get “more bang for your buck” in terms of nutrition, healthy eating can be both easy and fun. University/College is finally a time for life to be all about your son or daughter. This will be one of the best times in their life.
For more tips and hints about healthy eating away from home, or to share your experience, there are many ways you can talk to one of us directly:
- Leave us a comment below – we’d love your feedback
- Talk to us on Twitter: @haltonparents
- Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Call HaltonParents by dialing 311 or 905-825-6000 for parenting information or to speak directly to a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)
About this guest blogger, Nicole Bloschinsky:
“I am originally from London Ontario. I completed a Bachelor’s of Science – honours Biological Sciences degree from the University of Windsor during 2005-2009 and then went on to study Foods and Nutrition at Brescia University College at the University of Western from 2009 – 2012. I am completing my Dietetic Internship with Hamilton Health Sciences. I love to cook, bake and eat good food. I love being outdoors as much as possible. I have a German Shepherd named Brooke.”