Top 8 Tips for a Healthier Lifestyle

Sept. 5, 2013

Maybe you've been waiting all year to finally use that Pinterest board full of football season snacks and recipes, but take a pause. This is important.

College life and dorm living can wreck a person's good nutrition, for undergraduate and graduate students alike. All of a sudden, your schedule is dizzying – running from class to class, maybe even work, and trying to get community service in while being attentive to family and other relationships. 

Life becomes like a ready-made recipe that can easily get people trapped into a diet fueled by high-starch and high-sodium noodles, veggie-less pizza binges, highly caffeinated coffee runs and overindulgence in sugary sodas.

"It's a stressful, active, erratic lifestyle," said UA nutritionist Gale Welter Coleman at Campus Health Service.

For time-strapped and space-deprived individuals, the UA Campus Health Service offers nutrition tips and recipes, including recipes for whole grain strawberry muffins, lentil meatloaf and Georgia caviar. Also, the student-organized Cooking on Campus classes have begun, with the next being held Sept. 17. The UA program teaches students how to prepare healthy, home-cooked meals.

Arizona Student Unions offers a range of healthy options. (Photo credit: Patrick McArdle/UANews)

Welter Coleman shared some top tips for proper nutrition and stress management for new University students:

1. Don't ignore chronic feelings of stress. Feeling overwhelmed is natural in life. We are bound to feel it from time to time. But if chronic stress, anxiety or frustration are persistent,  there may be a deeper problem. In that case, Welter Coleman highly suggests talking with your advisors, or visiting  UA Counseling and Psychological Services.

2. Look for the healthy choices on campus. You make choices daily, like deciding between a hefty serving of syrupy sweet orange chicken or the low-fat, whole grain bagel sandwich. The Arizona Student Unions, which supplies food services campuswide, has greatly enhanced the availability of healthy options, including less-processed, gluten-free, low-carb and vegetarian choices. Be sure to look for the Smart Moves icon for ideas.

3. Look for the color. Take a look at the food on your plate. If you find that it carries a dull monotone color, you need to rethink what you are eating. Adding color to your plate, whether it be in the form of fruits or vegetables, is always strong advice, Welter Coleman says.

Core restaurant worker Leslie Wilts helps students decide on salads during the Taste of the Union event in 2012. (Photo credit: Patrick McArdle/UANews)

4. Pack your snacks. Maybe you've seen the Vine video where Cookie Monster is having a hard time making cookies an occasional food? Turns out healthy eating requires great care and planning. Start by kicking out as much fried food, high sugar and high sodium eats as possible, making those "occasional treats," Welter Coleman said. Replace them with grilled and baked options, sugar-free drinks and whole, unprocessed foods flavored with herbs and spices. Why? "You’ll feel great and look great. Don’t believe me? Try it for a few days," she recommends. Instead of the chocolate bar or potato chips, reach for fresh or dried fruits, nuts and whole grain crackers. And to maintain energy and curb cravings, plan to eat throughout the day instead of taking on one or two huge meals.

5. Find creative ways to incorporate exercise in your daily life. So, you may not have time to spend an hour at the gym every day – and you might not even want to. Welter Coleman has some good tips for ways to incorporate energy-giving exercises in your daily life. Park your car a few spots further way. See stairs? Take them every chance you can. Walk as though you were late to class or work. Take a general UA dance class at the Student Recreation Center. Walk around the concession level at McKale, which is one mile for 5.5 loops. And set tiny fitness goals that you can incorporate, whether between classes or while seated in front of your laptop. "Exercise produces feel-good hormones that are stress busters. You will feel a lot better," Welter Coleman said.

People learn Zumba during the Family Zumba Party at the UA Student Recreation Center in 2012 (Photo credit: Patrick McArdle/UANews)

6. Break bad routines and old habits. "Do the best you can for yourself. It is important to establish good habits in college," Welter Coleman advises. And do it in a way that is realistic for you. People have varying caloric needs; some have dietary restrictions and others have religious beliefs that dictate what they can or cannot eat. Regardless, Campus Health specialists will help you to identify a tailored nutritional and exercise plan.

7. Think you're hungry? Take the "apple test." Or the banana test. Or the orange test. Just pick a fruit, and if you find yourself thinking, "Meh, I don't feel like a fist full of strawberries," then you probably want to eat for reasons other than hunger, or you may be thirsty and just need water instead. Welter Coleman warns against eating while bored, or stuffing feelings and emotions with food. "Emotional eating is very common – 'I'll just eat something to eat it.'" Be sure to be mindful and present about why and what you’re eating, Welter Coleman advised.

8. Stay positive. Welter Coleman emphasizes that for any change in a nutrition or exercise plan to work, a person has to see its value and approach the change with thoughtful intention. One or two small changes at a time work best. Making healthy choices are crucial to maintaining a positive self image, just as being body positive is crucial to  making healthy choices. To keep positive, try pairing up with a friend or sharing your intentions with a social group. "Find people who resonate with you," Welter Coleman says.

In addition to the open gym, Campus Recreation offers yoga, pilates, aquatics, a challenge program, belly dancing, massage, Argentine tango and more. (Photo credit: Norma Jean Gargasz/UANews)