On-campus eating presents nutritional, health problems

Kenna Hodgson (The Western Front)

Staying healthy on campus may seem like an oxymoron.

The campus lifestyle consists of late nights, crazy schedules, all-you-can-eat dining halls and the absence of parental control. These circumstances can lead to an unhealthy lifestyle.

This fall, many services at Western and the Bellingham community will work to ease the transition from home to college life.

“Good health is simple,” Bellingham nutritionist Mary Lou Anderson said. “It is all about finding a balance.”

Nutritious food, water and oxygen are the core of a healthy lifestyle, Anderson said. The biggest challenge is making these items a priority.

Western’s three dining halls and multiple food markets offer many food choices for students.

This year, University Dining Services aims to increase the accessibility of nutritional information to students, said Lisa North, director of business services for the organization. Although students can look up the information at computers located in the dining hall now, North said that because the computer does not automatically show the menu for the day, it is not the optimal tool.

Dining Services ultimately will provide information on its Web site, and students will be able to click on a menu item and see its contents, she said. In the meantime, a sign including the nutritional information will hang by each item.

Dining Services tries to make healthy eating an easier choice, North said, and each dining hall provides a salad bar and fruit in the morning.

“Light eating does not always mean a salad,” North said. “It’s about the combination and the portion size.”

When eating on campus, students can avoid over-indulging by remembering a few rules, according to the Uuniversity of California, Los Angeles’ Web site. Students should avoid going to the dining hall starving and have a healthy snack such as a piece of fruit beforehand. They should try not to go back for seconds and thirds — it takes 10 to 20 minutes for the body to realize it is full — and commit to eating at least one serving of fruits or vegetables at each meal.

Over-eating is not the only problem that college students face — not eating enough is an issue as well. Sometimes eating does not fit into class schedules, but making an effort to schedule a lunch break is worth it, Anderson said.

“It’s important that students eat three meals a day,” she said. “This gives you more consistent energy throughout the day.”

If sitting down to eat is not an option, she said a good protein shake or bar is one of the best substitutes.

Another problem among students is excessive drinking. Drinking affects the brain, nervous system and blood sugar levels, Anderson said. Alcohol also contains a lot of calories — a 12-ounce beer contains roughly 150 calories and one shot of 80-proof alcohol contains approximately 100 calories, according to UCLA’s Web site.

Alcohol also dehydrates the body, Anderson said. Drinking in moderation and consuming water with alcohol can help minimize these effects, she said.

Anderson said taking a multivitamin and drinking water are essential to good health. To calculate how much water to drink each day in ounces, students should take their weight and divide it by two, Anderson said.

To help students cope with nutritional issues, Western employs on-campus dietician Kara Ten Kley. Students can contact her for answers to any nutritional questions they may have, North said.

While eating healthy requires constant effort, it is not the only factor to staying healthy, Anderson said. Being involved in enjoyable activities, being outdoors, making friends and exercising all contribute to good health, she said.

Ron Arnold, the Wade King Recreational Center fitness coordinator, said the biggest challenge college students face is inactivity.

“Many kids go from being a two- or three-sport athlete to sitting in a classroom and studying in their dorm rooms,” he said. “Activity is the key to a healthy lifestyle.”

Western also is located in an area where outdoor activities are plentiful and easy to find. Hiking, biking, and kayaking are minutes away.

Western graduate student Brady Feutz said the hardest part of staying healthy in college for him was finding somewhere to lift weights. With the opening of the recreation center, students can access personal trainers, weights and exercise equipment, and classes ranging from spinning to belly dancing.

“The center was put here primarily for the students,” Arnold said. “It’s up to the students to take advantage.”

Copyright The Western Front