Meal planning curbs bad eating habits

Will Smith tries to eat breakfast at least three times a week. But on those days when he can’t, he’ll go into the afternoon without any food. “Sometimes I don’t have the time or money to eat,” said the fourth-year computer information systems student from Flint, Mich. “That’s when I usually will find fast food.”Until then, he said he would feel “weak and tired.” This affects his concentration in class. “I am not thinking about what the professor is saying, only food.”Neil James, department head of Food Science, said he did a survey of his afternoon students and more than 50 percent had not eaten by noon. “Then it’s Rally’s or McDonald’s or something out of the vending machine,” James said. “The effects of eating on the go are long term. Right now habits are being formed that are difficult to break.” James includes that there is a direct link between breakfast and performance. “Right now students have a high metabolism, but that won’t always be.”He said the lack of nutrients from late hunger quick fixes could lead to problems around the thirties and forties, like anemia and osteoporosis. “And you can’t start eating right once your health becomes bad and expect it to get better,” he said.”Now is the time to start preventing this.”James suggests meal planning. It’s cheaper and healthier to think about what and when to eat, and always include breakfast, he said. “Yogurt, cereal, fruit, and bagels are all good things to take with you in the morning,” he said.In the evening pasta, salads, tuna, or turkey sandwiches are a quick and easy way to have a balanced diet, he added. Carole Bullock, a registered dietitian with Capital Health Plan said the most effective meal planning should happen just before grocery shopping. “Think about what you need every day and include those on the list, like if you know you need an apple every day, buy seven apples,” Bullock said.”Try to buy things that don’t take a lot of time to prepare, like canned foods, frozen dinners, fruits and veggies. These are things you can take with you.”Once those things are in the kitchen, Bullock said use the night before to get everything together for the next day’s meal. “If something needs to be defrosted take it out, or if you’re going to cook chicken breast, cook five instead of one and microwave later.”Though reheating can lead to a loss of the food’s nutrients, variety is the best way to make sure you are getting everything you need. “Planning five small meals a day is the key to getting everything you need to be at your best in class. “You won’t have to think about what you are going to eat while the teacher is talking because you already know.”

Kadesha M. Thomas can be reached at