Nutrition Information and Resources
Despite the significant implications of healthy eating on overall long-term health, many college students engage in poor dietary habits, such as high intake of fast foods and other foods high in fat, low intake of fruits, vegetables, and dairy, and erratic eating behaviors such as meal skipping.1 A balanced diet can help students increase energy levels, promote a functioning immune system, improve their ability to cope with stress, and increase concentration and performance in school. A variety of factors influence healthy eating. For students, in particular, factors influencing dietary habits include time, availability of healthy options, friends' eating habits, and nutritional knowledge. University stakeholders can support healthy eating by making healthy options affordable, accessible, and desirable while providing information on making healthy food and beverage choices.
There are many actions that college students can take to eat in a nutritious way and enjoy their college years without jeopardizing their health. Some recommendations to improve mental and physical wellbeing include:
- Get at least eight hours of sleep a night. Some students may need more than eight hours to feel well-rested, so monitor yourself to see how many hours of sleep lead to feeling the most rested. Lack of sleep affects one's ability to concentrate and makes one feel tired, negatively impacting academic performance and mood.
- Avoid skipping meals. When a meal is missed, the subsequent hunger may cause one to overeat at their next meal and negatively impact concentration.
- Avoid dieting and food restriction, as it has been found to increase stress. In addition, long-term distress (bad anxiety) can cause serious health problems such as bone loss, decreased fertility, or heart disease. Instead, focus on body awareness to learn to eat when your body signals hunger and stop eating when your body signals signs of satiety. Eating slower rather than quickly can also help one notice these signals.
- Eat breakfast, which helps concentration and increases the likelihood of consuming calcium, folic acid, and vitamin C. These nutrients are often low in the diet of college students and are vital for healthy red blood cells.
- Manage portion sizes. If portion sizes are underestimated, one may eat more than needed. Also, the availability of a wide variety and mass quantities of "dorm" food (pizza, soda, etc.) may promote overeating low in nutrients your body needs.
- Drink water throughout the day. Even mild dehydration negatively impacts mental functioning by resulting in headaches, working memory issues, feelings of fatigue, and mood. Consistent water intake will help one feel better mentally and physically!
- Eat fruits consistently to consume adequate fiber, vitamins, and minerals throughout the day. Fruits may reduce the risk for heart disease, including heart attack and stroke. Furthermore, fruits contain healthy sugars (carbohydrates) that boost energy.
- Only consume sweetened beverages such as soda, caffeine, fruit drinks, and sweetened teas in moderation. These beverages provide few essential nutrients to a student's overall diet and have been linked with long-term negative health outcomes if over-consumed.
- Exercise regularly. Physical activity helps manage stress while improving physical stamina and mental wellbeing.
- Become familiar with the campus environment and the available foods. If you have questions about making healthier choices within NJCU Dining and/or navigating dining services with a food allergy, medical condition, or nutritional concern, reach out to a dietician.
Remember, there are no "bad" foods. The foods you eat should be varied, and, ideally, each meal should contain fruits, vegetables, healthy oils, whole grains, and protein. Eating a high in sugar or fat food will not negatively affect one's health long-term if eaten in moderation (not as the bulk of a student's diet).
NJCU's Dining Services provides services through a registered dietician for all students:
Jennifer Bostedo, Dietitian
Jennifer Bostedo, RD, is a food and nutrition professional with years of experience providing real solutions for implementing healthy meal plans into any lifestyle. As a nationally accredited Registered Dietitian, she can assist you in meeting your health goals using sound, proven techniques derived from the newest medical nutrition research. In addition to her nutrition background, Jennifer also has professional chef training. Using her strong culinary experience and cultural understanding, she will work with you to implement a healthy and colorful palette to meet diverse nutrition needs. Whether shedding extra pounds, fueling up for a marathon, or meal planning for specific allergies or disorders, a registered dietitian is a safe and effective option for getting and staying healthy.
Jennifer is available to students, student groups, and faculty members for one-on-one nutrition counseling. Also, look for upcoming events like tasty cooking demos and informative nutrition sessions.
- Nutrition and Food Safety Resource
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Eat Right
- Nutrition Resource provides information on health impacts of healthy/unhealthy eating, recipes, and safety information.
- Center for Science in the Public Interest provides independent, science-based advice about how to eat a healthy diet
- The College Nutritionist
- Purdue University Global: Tips for College Students