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This week in wellness: New semester, new eating habits

Each week The Lantern speaks with experts at Ohio State for the latest in student health and wellness tips and news.

A new semester means new students and new starts. For students looking to re-evaluate their eating schedule and establish good dietary habits early this semester, Janele Bayless, wellness coordinator in the Student Life Student Wellness Center and dietitian, shares her knowledge on the subject with The Lantern.

Q: What does a healthy diet for college-age students look like?

A: A great way students can structure their meals is to include three or more food groups with at least one serving of fruit or vegetable. According to data from the National College Health Association in 2014, only 8 percent of OSU students consume five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day, so including a fruit or vegetable with every meal and snack is a great goal to start with.  For snacks, it can be helpful to include a protein or dairy source with a grain, fruit or vegetable, especially if you are going more than four hours between meals. Examples include hummus with vegetables, peanut butter with apple slices, and Greek yogurt with granola.

Q: How often should students eat and how much?

A: How much students should eat will vary for each person, but it’s generally recommended to eat every three to four hours, or to have smaller meals and snacks throughout the day. A great goal is to practice mindful eating by paying attention to your body’s hunger and fullness cues so you eat according to when your body needs fuel. As soon as you start to feel stomach hunger, have something to eat and stop eating when you are no longer hungry or could eat more but don’t need to.  Stocking up on a variety of snacks you can take with you throughout the day will help to curb hunger until your next meal. There’s no particular time of day when people should stop eating since everyone has different schedules so it’s ok to eat at night if you’re hungry by having a small snack before bed (i.e. 2-3 cups popcorn, 1 cup grapes, string cheese).

Q: What are foods (and ingredients) students should avoid and what should they look for when seeking out healthy, affordable options?

A: There’s no particular food or beverage people should avoid altogether (with the exception of certain health conditions and medications), however, it’s generally good to aim for consuming whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein sources (i.e. chicken, beans and legumes) and low-fat dairy products, depending on a person’s needs and goals. It is good to limit foods and beverages that are low in nutrients and/or have added fat, sugar or sodium.

Q: Where can students go to find more information about healthy eating on campus?

A: University Dining Services provides menus and nutrition facts on their website for foods available in each of the campus dining locations, along with information for those with food allergies and diet preferences. For more information about University Dining Services, visit: https://dining.osu.edu. The Student Life Student Wellness Center also offers free nutrition coaching for currently enrolled OSU students and can help personalize a student’s food intake according to their needs and goals. For more information, visit: go.osu.edu/nutritioncoaching.

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