Heading back to school and dreading the all-you-can-eat cafeteria? First year and fearing the “Freshman 15”? Staying healthy in college is more than just fitting into your skinny jeans — it can seriously help you later on in life. Why care now, you ask? The American Heart Association says ‘Life is Why.’ Here’s a lesson you don’t want to forget: nearly 68 percent of U.S. adults are overweight or obese, and obesity is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, the nation’s No. 1 and No. 4 killers.
Check out this ‘study guide’ to help your health exam:
1. Did you check in? After you’ve successfully updated your status on your social networks, pop over to this online tool to check your calories. Managing weight is a simple equation of burning as many calories as you take in. Use the app, www.heart.org/MyFatsTranslator to manage your weight and continue to update your status.
2. Sorry to sound like a broken record, but eat your fruits and veggies. Mom and Dad were on to something when they taught you to eat an apple a day. The American Heart Association recommends filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables at every meal. Fruits and vegetables are low-calorie, nutrient-rich foods that keep you satisfied and may help you maintain weight, cholesterol and blood pressure.
3. Stay hydrated my friends. Water is the best way to stay hydrated. Reach for water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages like soda and sports drinks, which add extra calories with little nutritional value. Plain water too boring? Try sparkling water or add fruit wedges to jazz it up.
4. Put down the double bacon cheeseburger. It sounds like a delicious option after that all-nighter you pulled, but your heart won’t be happy with you. Instead, reach for a grilled turkey burger piled high with veggies like avocado, tomato, onions and lettuce. In other words, choose lean cuts of meat and poultry without skin and extra fat removed. Opt for grilled, baked, broiled, poached or roasted (we promise, it’ll still taste delish.)
5. Something sounds fishy. We’re talking about that deep-fried, breaded basket that you took in the cafeteria line. Instead, try baked, broiled or grilled fish (especially the oil kind, like salmon or trout) twice a week.
6. Slow down there, slugger. Let’s just say, drink in moderation. Alcohol contains a lot of empty calories and can have other negative effects on your health. The American Heart Association recommends no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. Tiny umbrella optional.
7. Stuff your face. With healthy snacks, that is. In between classes and studying, it’s sometimes hard to find healthy options. So when you need a bite, stuff your face with fresh fruits and veggies, unsalted nuts and seeds, and low-fat whole-grain crackers.
8. Strike a (yoga) pose. Put down the cupcake and fight your stress without food. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try yoga, take a walk, go to the gym or call friends or family. Remember, you’re allowed to take breaks from studying in order to recharge.
9. We like to move it, move it. Cue the dance music, lace up those running shoes or grab a Frisbee. No matter how you like to move it (move it!), maintaining weight is about burning the same amount of calories as you consume. Developing a regular exercise routine (at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week) is the best way to burn additional calories and manage stress.
10. Take your phone out. No, not to tweet. To check your portions. One of the easiest pitfalls for college students is all-you-can-eat cafeterias. Portion control can help you keep track of the foods you are consuming without going overboard. For instance, a serving of chicken breast (three ounces) is about the size of a smart phone and a medium banana is about the size of a pencil. Check out www.heart.org/PortionDistortion for more portion comparisons. Visit www.heart.org/GettingHealthy for more tips on maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Jessica DiMeo is the senior regional director of communications for the American Heart Association on Long Island.