Healthy Eating in College?

While sharing dinner with some dear friends last week, we learned their daughter, Hannah, is experiencing numerous health issues. Hannah lives in a college dorm and is eating primarily cafeteria food.

One of the illnesses Hannah recently experienced is shingles. Singles is an autoimmune disease. Once you’ve have had chicken pox, the virus lives dormant in the nervous system.

When your immune system is compromised, shingles, a painful rash, surfaces. This is more often a problem for the elderly.

College isn’t that far off for Zach. He’s showing off his science project.

Cafeteria Food Is Horrible
I offered my assistance. I began to correspond with Hannah through email. The worst place in the world to try to eat healthy is in college.

I initially thought Hannah must be consuming a lot of junk foods and soda pop. That would easily explain her compromised immune system. I was mistaken.

My first suggestion was for her to choose vegetarian dishes in the school’s cafeteria. And to never eat fast food. I was pleasantly surprised to find out this is more than okay with Hannah.

Next, I suggested to never eat sugar, as it compromises the immune system for up to 5 hours after ingesting it. So forget desserts, soda, etc. Also, forgo salad dressings, go for the olive oil and vinegar bottles. Prepared salad dressing are often loaded with sugars, trans fats and other horrible ingredients.

Hannah is making the best choices possible. The problem isn’t Hannah’s food selection, but the food available. Hannah doesn’t have a lot of options, because she attends a small college with limited food choices.

Hannah explained, “Typically meals are one or two entrée options (always chicken) or mixed greens (which are usually wilted, and everyone picks out the spinach so you’re left with iceberg lettuce, which barely qualifies as a food). I’m not sure how to get around this. Also, I’m not allowed to have a George Foremen Grill in my room. I have a small refrigerator, that’s about the extant of appliances I can have in my room. Any suggestions?”

Most nutrition should come from whole foods. Supplements are just that…supplemental to a healthy diet. When confined to cafeteria food, it’s more important than ever to supplement with vitamins. I suggest beginning with Carlson’s Vitamin D drops, probiotics and flaxseed oil. All are purchased at a whole foods store. The probiotics and flaxseed oil should be purchased from the refrigerator case as they are likely to easily spoil. These should be kept in her mini-refrigerator. Of course, a quality multivitamin is important, as well.

When it isn’t possible to eat enough vegetables and fruit, take a whole food vegetable supplement. Garden of Life has a product called “Perfect Food.” Since eating fresh veggies is difficult in a cafeteria, I’d add this to my supplement list. Take 4 or 5 capsules a day when you are not able to consume enough fresh veggies.

Lifeless Cafeteria Food
My advice about college cafeteria food: “I know you are paying for meals at college, but they are making you sick. You’ll end up spending more on doctors and medicines. Eat as much whole raw foods as possible… in your room if you have to. Whole food stores usually sell premade whole grain sandwiches. Keep a min-frig filled with raw veggies and coconut milk.”

I encouraged Hannah to be aggressive with her diet. If the school can’t supply whole foods, then she needs to bring her own food into the cafeteria. Organic lettuce greens would be easy enough to carry in baggies.

“The Makers Diet” details Jordan Rubin’s journey. He became gravely ill from Irritable Bowel Syndrome his first year in college. His health quickly spiraled out of control, even though he came from a health-conscious family. Doctors had given up on him; he was dying. He nearly gave up himself, but tried one last thing–probiotics.

Especially if your college kid has had a round of antibiotics, it’s a no-brainer for probiotics. Processed foods and sugar also kills the good bacteria in your gut. Cafeteria food is almost all processed, lifeless food. Once your digestive track has been compromised, disease follows.

Real Food in a Dorm
Most colleges allow a mini-frig, but the  space is extremely limited. Keep a cupboard or even a box filled with food that doesn’t require refrigeration: fresh fruit, nuts, seeds, granola, whole grain bread, etc.

Almond or peanut butter keeps well outside a frig. Spread it on whole grain bread.

Some non-dairy beverages come in individual servings. Almond, Oat, rice and hazelnut drinks are available in a small single serving size from Pacific. Coconut water (God’s natural sport’s drink) is another.

Purchase fruit and nut bars with no white sugar and low natural sugars. (I love two: Nutiva Flax & Raisin Organic Flaxseed Bar it has 7 grams of sugar from honey and raisins. The other is KIND fruit & Nut–Nut Delight. It has 8 grams of sugar also from honey.) Both can be placed in a purse or pocket for a healthy energy snack.

Even in a dorm, you can make a super-smoothie with a blender. Click Here for the Recipe. Lastly, drink water, but not bottled water.

You’ll Want to Check out “Horrible Foods”…Click Here.


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