Meal plans, late nights and open dining halls can lead to poor health choices, but there are many ways you can avoid unwanted pounds and stay sharp during the semester. 

According to the Mental Health Foundation, there is a strong correlation between the quality of food we put into our bodies and mental health. Food doesn't just affect how our body looks, it also affects how it functions throughout the day. 

According to a study done by the Obesity Health Coalition, empty calories − foods with no nutritional value − will leave us feeling foggy and fatigued. Foods containing vitamins and minerals will give you energy and clarity. Tanya Falcone, the coordinator of Nutrition Outreach, uses these four words to help her know if it is nutritional or not. 

“Quality, quantity, frequency and timing,” Falcone said. “Quality: can you pronounce every ingredient in this food? Quantity: are you sticking to the serving size? Frequency: how often are you eating this food, good or bad? And timing: what time is it when you are eating this food?” 

Food is not the only thing you should be focusing on when trying to stay healthy. Late nights and the inevitable partying college days will affect us later on. According to Falcone, the last five years are impacting your life now. What you do now to your body you will see in 15 years. 

“Think late night study sessions, you cannot catch up on sleep during the weekends,” Falcone said. “Your body doesn’t work that way, you can only catch up short term, sleeping in longer than usual during the weekend throws off your circadian rhythm and confuses your body come Monday morning.” 

According to the National Center of Biotechnology, students can manage a better sleep schedule by prioritizing sleep as they would to studying or hanging out with friends. If you schedule a specific time every night to go to sleep, chances are you will stick to that when the time comes. 

Along with the nutrients of food and daily habits, exercise is also a crucial way to stay healthy. Students between the ages of 18 and 23 should be working out a minimum of three days a week, according to Falcone. Getting your blood flowing clears the mind and improves your mood making you more efficient to get school work done. There are right and wrong ways to working out.

“We recommend a moderate workout of at least 45 minutes, a mix of cardio and strength training,” Falcone said. “But be mindful of the trend of HIIT.”

HIIT, high intensity interval training, is a cardio based workout that keeps your heart rate pumping for about 10 minutes. Falcone said the dangers that come with this is most people take these HIIT workouts and do them for an hour. 

“When doing HIIT for more than 10 minutes, you're putting a lot of pressure on your joints. Also, when you do these for longer than you should, you start to burn muscle and all your hard work will deteriorate,” Falcone said. 

She also recommends making sure you are giving your body at least one or two days off to rest and refueling when you are done. 

“If you are mindful about your choices and moving your body then you should be able to avoid the freshman 15 and health problems,” Falcone said. “Following these simple points will keep you going for those long school days and exams that you need a sharp mind for.” 

According to Hailey Fisher, president of CHAARG (Changing Health, Attitude, Actions to Recreate Girls), she believes because brands are incorporating plus size models, the freshman 15 is not happening as much. 

“I think people are realizing their potential and that it’s normal for everyone to have a different body,” Fisher said. “Social media has been a big advocate to show people to be conscious of what they put into their body and exercising, not because they have to, but because they want to.”

Kent’s campus has many healthy food options to choose from. Prentice Cafe is the only place on campus that is completely gluten free. Grazers is full of fresh options such as, rice bowls and salads. Even at the dining halls, you are able to customize your own stir fry where you can load up on vegetables. 

“You can find healthy food anywhere on campus by customizing your order,” Fisher said. “You can make a salad, go to the stir fry bar or order a sandwich with vegetables and wheat bread from the hub.”  

Contact Sarah Arnold at sarnol22@kent.edu.

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