by Miranda Pollard, PHE
We’ve all found ourselves tired, hungry, and stressed out, tempted to opt for fast and easy meal options. However, cheap, quick meals and snacks are often packed with calories, don’t have much nutritional value, or are heavily processed. I personally find it difficult to eat healthy, balanced, and nutritious meals when I am on the go, busy, tired, or just feeling lazy. So, what’s the solution? Eating more simply – sometimes referred to as “clean eating!” What is clean eating, you might ask? Well, it’s fundamentally just trying to mindfully cut down on heavily processed foods, and eat more simple foods free of additives and chemicals. Yes, as a college student it’s difficult to stick to this completely, but I have found that just being mindful of the food I’m eating, and thinking about how clean or unprocessed a food is before I eat it, has helped me move toward a more nutritious and well-rounded diet.
Eating simply is much easier than it sounds. Most of the nutritious foods that we recommend as PHEs can fall under the “clean eating” umbrella. Here are some examples by category:
Grains/Carbohydrates: whole wheat bread and pasta, popcorn, quinoa, millet, barley, brown rice, oatmeal, potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams
Protein: unprocessed meat, eggs, nuts and nut butters (try to find simple kinds without added sugar), legumes
Dairy/Fats: milk, cheese, yogurt, coconut oil, olive oil, avocado
Fruits/Veggies: fresh, frozen, or additive-free canned fruits, vegetable – think frozen strawberries for a smoothie or microwavable broccoli to stir into pasta
Of course, it isn’t feasible to only eat unprocessed food, but opting for the simplest option even on the go helps maintain a nutritious and healthy diet. It can be challenging to plan grocery shopping, meals, and snacks around simpler foods. My solution: make a big batch of quinoa on Sundays. I can reheat this throughout the week, take it in a Tupperware with me to class, and add whatever veggies, spices, or sauces I want to it. Most whole foods can be easily steamed, baked, grilled, sautéed, microwaved, or eaten fresh – and as most college apartments don’t come with a deep fryer, clean eating doesn’t interfere with most students’ cooking methods. As a UVa student, I know firsthand how hard it is to maintain a healthy diet. However, anyone can make healthy choices whether you eat out frequently or cook at home. Aiming for fewer processed foods most of the time is just another way to mindfully incorporate healthier, more nutritious options into your diet. After all, every diet needs room for fun choices at restaurants, dining halls, or at 2am on the corner (Christian’s!). Choosing simple foods is just one way to aim for overall balance in your eating habits.
- Steel-cut oats (instant!) with soy milk and honey
- Whole-wheat toast with hummus and chili flakes
- Whole-wheat toast with avocado, lemon juice, and chili flakes
- Baked sweet potato with hot sauce
- Baked yams with ketchup
- Quinoa with vegetables, feta cheese, olives, anything and everything
- Delicata squash baked with olive oil and cayenne
- Fruit smoothies!
For more information, meet one-on-one with a Peer Health Educator or dietitian at Student Health! Call the Office of Health Promotion at (434) 924-1509 to make an appointment.