Blog Behavioral/Mental Health

Finding a nutritious balance

Written by Eliza Antonowich, communications assistant at the Institute for Public Health

As a sophomore in college, I have found that the most popular buzzword in conversation on campus must be balance. How can one possibly manage all the components that lead to success?

From academics, a job, exercise, extracurricular activities, a social life, and community service, busy may be an understatement for the typical Wash U student. However, certain aspects have made their way to the top of the priority list. Staying healthy and eating healthy are two vital tasks that have earned precedence.

Before I came to college my parents, along with many other parents, told me that the freshman 15 is real. This term can be a crutch, a joke, a fear factor, you name it. But it is not fake. A stressful day for me always leads to a nice Oreo brownie and ice cream. Since every day is busy and can be stressful, this soon became the norm. Snacking between classes and a Starbucks Frappuccino everyday was a lifestyle. I ran each day so it was fine, right?

This unfamiliarity of college stress and balance can be tough to adjust to. Presented with a myriad of choices for each meal, it can be difficult to choose a healthy, nutritious choice while in college, but the decision is imperative. Sure, a treat every so often is fine, almost needed. This should, however, be more infrequent, allowing a more nutritious balance to satisfy the norm. There is often pressure to stay fit and healthy while in college, balancing the numerous other aspects of life as well. While challenging, eating healthy is an easy first step. Here is what I have learned as a second semester sophomore.

For one, breakfast is key. Not chocolate chip waffles and greasy bacon, but yogurt or eggs with a side of fruit (at least on the school days). For most students, morning classes can drag on, but a good, nutritious breakfast will keep you going with positive energy. It will also most likely sustain you until lunch. If this happens to be later, pack a snack. A piece of fruit or a smoothie can be a good, healthy choice for a snack to tide you over until your next meal.

Lunch is always a tough one. You are in the middle of the day and are most likely craving the cheeseburger and fries with a cookie on the side. However, maybe substitute these fries with the sweet potatoes and broccoli. It is important to also keep in mind that serving size and portions are key. Pasta is great, filling and not all that bad for you, but a huge bowl may not be the best way to maintain stable energy.

After class may be a good time to throw in a quick workout. Whether going on a walk, hitting the gym, or taking a class at the Athletic Center, all are great ways to keep your mental and physical health at optimal level. Head to dinner after this and grab a quick salad or a modest serving of stir fry (load on the veggies).

While all of this is important, it is also essential to not follow any sort of regimen so rigidly that it impedes on your mental health and happiness. If you have just finished a big exam that you spent countless hours studying for or have just had a long, tough day, then eat the cookie and ice cream. It is always important to take care of yourself in all respects, trying as hard as possible to maintain that elusive idea of balance.