Health, Wellness, and Success, Part I: Nutrition
Completing your degree is hard work! Before you can give your best, it is important that you feel your best. Having a healthy diet that includes all of the proper nutrients is one way to help get you there. So here are some basic tips you can use to improve your diet immediately and start feeling your best:
- Make sure you are eating at least three meals per day (try not to skip meals)
- Try not to skip breakfast. By properly distributing your calories throughout the day, you can lower hunger between meals, which will hopefully lower the risk of that night time binge eating.
- Limit junk foods
- Lower your intake of processed foods high in sugar and fat (chips, candy, etc.). Prepare ahead of time with healthy snack options (fruits, nuts, vegetables, yogurt, etc.) to curb your appetite between meals.
- Limit sodas and some juices
- Don’t forget that most sodas and many juices are loaded with sugar. Just by lowering or eliminating consumption, you can significantly improve your diet, and allow for more of your calorie intake to go towards healthier food options.
- Be sure to get enough protein in your diet
- Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. It is of utmost importance to include foods high in protein to maintain a healthy weight (your need increases if you exercise). Some good protein sources include: eggs, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, lean beef/chicken breast, tuna, tilapia, beans, peanut butter, etc.
- Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables
- Including plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet is important to ensure you are meeting your daily requirement of vitamins and minerals. A body deficient in these can make it difficult to feel and perform your best. Experts recommend about 2-4 servings of fruits and 3-5 servings of veggies per day. Remember that they make great snacks between meals too!
- Drink plenty of water
- Your body cannot perform optimally while dehydrated. The recommended amount is about around 8-12 cups per day. However remember that fluid requirements can vary in hot/humid conditions or if you exercise. Try not to count sweetened beverages and alcohol as water, and as a result, you will find that following tip #3 should increase your water intake. Lastly, try carrying a water bottle with you as a reminder to drink!
- Plan ahead
- Many of our poor food choices are made out of convenience rather than desire. It’s much easier to grab some chips, a chocolate bar, and bottle of soda for lunch rather than grilling some chicken, and boiling vegetables. Know when your free time will be, and plan accordingly so you have healthy options available when you don’t have time to cook.
- Limit processed carbohydrates
- These are carbohydrates that are stripped of nutrients, fiber, and water, and fortified with sugar, salt, fat and loads of calories. Instead of French fries, select potatoes. Instead of white bread, opt for whole grain bread. In place of fruit loops, try oatmeal.
- Portion control
- An important key of any balanced diet is to manage your intake accordingly. A person who exercises daily, and carries a large amount of lean muscle, will require a greater caloric intake than a smaller, more sedentary individual. Eat according to your needs/goals. Utilize a calorie tracking app to ensure you are on target.
- Set a SMART goal
- SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Sensitive. When setting a nutrition goal for yourself, ask yourself if it is a SMART goal. Here’s an example: “Starting Monday, I will add two cups mixed vegetables to my dinner five days out of the week, in place of the fries or tater tots I often have”.
It’s no surprise that professionals are now identifying trends linking sound health with successful people, both in their career and personal lives. Living healthy, although not necessarily difficult, requires discipline, self-control, and sometimes hard work. To reap the full benefits of living healthy, one must learn to embody the aforementioned tips. Once you have done that, you have gained a greater ability to be successful in other aspects of your life.
Christopher Faulkner, a Certified Personal trainer with a degree in Kinesiology: Fitness Development, has worked with a diverse clientele in the fitness realm. Now, as a Student Success Coach with Excelsior College, he seeks to apply his knowledge and experience in supporting students through their academic journey.