Marnie Record, workforce specialist, LLCC Value Added Local Foods program
Today I am turning my column over to Emmi Fisher, an LLCC student and student worker in the LLCC Green Center. She writes about healthy eating for the busy college student and has great tips for anyone looking to improve their nutritional intake.
Long summer days filled with fresh, juicy peaches from the Old State Capitol Farmers Market, summer sports, vacations to the coast to get awesome tans and feel warm sand slip under one’s feet, and children playing freely all day: these are coming to an end.
Mid-August is here and school will soon be back in session. Many children and young adults will be making unhealthy eating decisions because of their busy schedules, and poor understanding of nutrition their bodies need to work at their best.
According to Fitness.gov, approximately 17 percent (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2-19 are obese (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Obesity Trends. 2011).
Experience from being a former high school student athlete who held three jobs, and a current student-athlete at Lincoln Land Community College who also works and holds a student government position, I understand the difficulties that many students today face which lead to unhealthy eating habits. Trying to balance athletics, clubs, volunteering, homework, college preparation, work, social life and family, it is very easy to get forget what foods one has consumed.
In high school I witnessed some of my friends, teammates and schoolmates consume unhealthy foods religiously. I noticed over four years a rapid change in some of their sports performances, concentration with school and declining personal health. Having turned to a healthy lifestyle at age 10 after watching a documentary on YouTube titled “Meet you Meat,” and doing further research about food nutrition, I was the first person to avoid certain foods and restaurants, and was given the label as the “Health Freak” from my peers.
I noticed during the four years of high school I got healthier, had more energy and mentally pushed myself harder in school, work and athletics. Unlike my peers I avoided eating poorly by preparing my lunch, a before practice snack and my dinner in advance.
I am not saying that meal preparations are a cure-all, but they help you develop a healthier diet and planning and cooking skills, learn economics of food shopping and budgeting, explore where food comes from, build creative ideas, and be able to compare and contrast nutritional values of food.
Before I started preparing my own meals I would find out information about making healthier eating decisions by visiting with my health care provider, listening to a nutritionist on television, attending nutritional workshops, watching YouTube videos, reading and subscribing to a health conscience blog. My favorite blogs to follow are Mother Earth News and Minimalists Baker. It is important to understand your specific nutritional needs, as everyone requires a different amount of calories, proteins, carbohydrates, fats and other essential vitamins and minerals.
I first identified a time when I was free, which was usually Sunday afternoon after church or work. Then I would come up with a list of meals and snacks I wanted to eat for a week. I found recipes on Pinterest, YouTube, television shows, magazines, books and printed recipes on food product containers. I would try to stick with recipes that share some of the same common ingredients. After, I would make a list of the food to be bought at the store. Since I had a tight budget I would also estimate prices to make it worked for my income.
Below is a sample of meals I would consume for a week:
Breakfast: Oatmeal (steel-cut or old fashioned) with unsweetened yogurt and real honey drizzled on top
Lunch: Peanut butter and banana (or avocados) on two slices of toast
Before practice snack: Protein shake or energy bar and a piece of fruit
Dinner: Crock pot beans (all types), potato-vegetable soup with cornbread or Walmart’s whole wheat bread that I found on the clearance rack.
When shopping for ingredients, I look for food that has the highest nutritional value. In doing research, I came upon a quote that I have been trying to live by when shopping for food throughout the years. Holistic fitness expert, trainer and Garden of Life brand advocate, Don Saladino said, “You do not have to be perfect but aim for an 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of foods you consume in a week should be organic, and 20 percent of the week, leave room for error. Turning to these will help with overall vitality.” (Extraordinary Health: Volume 27. The Organic Swimsuit Plan. 2016).
Buying organic food 100 percent of the time is not possible for me, but leaving room for error, growing a garden, visiting the local farmers’ markets, and looking for sales on organic products or even healthier alternatives give me the ability to consume a higher percentage of heathy food. Even if access to healthy food options is limited. I still look for foods that have higher nutritional values with essential vitamins and minerals the body needs, such as many different types of veggies, legumes and fatty fish.
Preparing meals should be a fun, stress-free experience to help students and others with busy schedules eat healthy meals throughout the week. So, if you or a student you know is taking zero hour classes, started a new job, made the sports team, joined a club or a volunteer organization, is taking night classes to prepare for the ACT or has a tutor to get ready to write their admission essay to college, give meal preparation a chance. It never hurts to try a new trick that can help save time and help your body reach its healthiest state.