With the constant juggling of schoolwork and extracurricular activities, many college students are finding it difficult to maintain healthy eating habits.
When Tanya Miller, 20, a third-year pharmacy student from Fort Lauderdale, arrived at Florida A&M University, she did not pay too much attention to how much or what she ate. Miller never learned how to cook and now that she is away from home, she said she feels like she is paying the price.
“I never put any interest into learning how to cook,” Miller said, “and now that I am on my own, I am regretting my decision.”
Miller said with her busy school schedule, there is really no time to prepare home-cooked meals. She said she finds it easier to just grab fast food that will only cost a few dollars and take less than five minutes to prepare.
“It is more convenient to go to Burger King and eat a whole meal for a couple bucks, especially when you do not have much time,” Miller said.
According to licensed dietician Melissa Dancer-Brown, poor eating habits continue to be a prevalent issue on many college campuses.
Dancer-Brown said she believes a lot of college students are not concerned with eating healthy, and because of this lack of interest, they are experiencing substantial weight gain throughout their college years.
“Healthy eating seems to sit very low on a college student’s priority list,” said Brown, who is registered with the Tallahassee Dietetic Association.
Rosemarie Oldhoff, 18, a freshman political science student from Orlando, said eating healthy seems almost impossible to do in a college setting.
Oldhoff lives on campus and is limited to eating what is offered in her meal plan. In her first semester, she has already noticed she has gained weight but said it is uncontrollable. “There’s no kitchen in the dorm rooms,” Oldhoff said, “so I have to eat whatever they make in the cafeteria.”
According to Brown, students are more prone to unhealthy dieting during their college years than any other time in their life. Being away from parents, heightened stress levels and odd schedules are all contributing factors as to why college students tend to fall victim to weight gain and poor eating habits, Brown said.
“For many students, their parents were there to help keep them balanced,” she said. “And now, they must learn to do it on their own.”
Brown also said many college students do not pay attention to the amount of calories they consume on a daily basis.
According to Brown, many college students take in an overwhelming number of calories from juice and alcohol alone.”Many students do not even think about the amount of calories that is in the alcohol they are drinking,” Brown said.
Although it seems like healthy eating cannot be done, there are ways for students to maintain a healthy lifestyle while in college. According to food nutritionist Amy Magnuson, regular exercise, adequate amounts of sleep and cutting back on fast food can help students achieve a well-balanced diet.
“College students really need to focus on eating more fresh foods rather than processed foods,” Magunson said.For now, Miller is trying to devote more time to eating healthy foods. She realizes that although fast food is more convenient, it is unhealthy to eat it on a regular basis.
“I am trying not to indulge in the junk food.” Miller said. “But there’s nothing wrong with some French fries every now and then.”