Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Managing with a College Cafeteria... and defining Moderation.

Hello, all!!

Today, I decided I wanted to talk on the subject of eating healthy with a busy schedule and limited resources. But today applies mostly to college students and teachers.

Luckily, my college does indeed have a vegetarian cafeteria - but sometimes, I grimace at some of the menu items - fries, veggie burgers, processed-sugar-laden desserts, fattening, cheesy dishes... :-/

But I'm going to tell you right now that it IS possible to eat healthy at a college cafeteria - and it doesn't matter if it's vegetarian or not! Here are the things I've picked up so far in my personal journey:

* Stock up on fresh fruit - my cafeteria always has the same selection of fruit: grapes, bananas honeydew melon, and cantaloupe - and half of the time, the two melon varieties are tasteless (yet another reason why I choose organic and in season over store-bought). Therefore, I'm usually piling those grapes and bananas into my takeout box.
* Oatmeal is your best friend - My cafeteria also has a section for hot cereal. Usually it's oatmeal. Oatmeal is SO good for you, and what I love about it is that all of the toppings are on the side - including the cow's milk! Since I don't do the processed sugars, I usually put honey - a much better alternative - in my oatmeal.
* Scrambled tofu is not too bad - you know those mornings where you wake up and can't bear the thought of eating something sweet for breakfast - don't we all have those days? Well, if you're not against soy, try scrambled tofu out. I find it pretty tasty. I'm not sure this option is in every college cafeteria, since my college cafeteria happens to be vegetarian.

* Go for the steamed vegetables - yeah, sometimes they are buttered, so if you're vegan or lactose/casein intolerant, be careful with that. Usually, the broccoli doesn't seem to be buttered - well, at least in my cafeteria.
* Plain can be good! - my cafeteria usually offers some form of rice. When it's white rice, I pile that in my plate/takeout box with my steamed veggies. Sometimes they have a rice that has kidney beans mixed in - it's delicious! Experiment with the simple sides, people! You may be surprised at what the cafeteria has to offer.
* Go for WHOLE GRAINS! - whole wheat bread, whole grain oatmeal, whole grain cereals, you name it!
* Beans are the best! - eat up those legumes! They are full of protein and fiber, and are super duper heart healthy! Coming from a hispanic (I'm Cuban and Chilean), beans and rice are fantastic together!!! ;)
* Skip the condiments - most of the time, they are sugar-laden, genetically modified, and fattening.
* Avoid fried stuff - I never eat the fries at the cafeteria anymore - they are artery-clogging, fattening, and simply downright unhealthy! I know it's hard to avoid fried things at first, especially when you see someone else piling them into his/her bowl - but I promise it will get easier.
* Choose your soup wisely - I say this because many soups are cream-laden and overly stocked with sodium, which is not a heart healthy option. I suggest that you choose the soups that have clear broth and that are filled with veggies. If you're a meat eater, chicken noodle soup is much healthier than tomato bisque soup (a.k.a. cream soup with tomato flavor).
* Dessert is not necessary for every meal - and this is coming from a sweet tooth, so I do understand how hard it is to skip on dessert. I usually cope with this by either eating fruit or going back to my dorm room and eating a natural cookie or two (either homemade or from a health food store).

You may notice I didn't mention anything about salad - I'm not a huge salad bar fan at my cafeteria - it's always the same, and the dressings are filled with sugar - which frustrates me to no end. Don't get me wrong - I LOVE salad. It's just that my cafeteria's salad bar sucks, in my humble opinion. Oh, but there is one thing I like to do at the salad bar:

* Go simple with salad - in fact, don't even call it a salad. Pick your favorite vegetable in the salad bar - let's say... cucumbers. And pile those - just those - in your bowl. By just choosing one vegetable, you won't need dressing AND you won't have to eat a bland salad (there is nothing worse than a bland salad).

I encourage you to try these things - whether all at once, or slowly - I'll leave that to you. :)
I DO know that your body and your heart will thank you endlessly for your healthy food choices, both now and later. I also know that it will get easier to avoid the bad stuff - I know it's hard, and I know some of you believe in "moderation" of these things, but here's my philosophy:

Moderation is good - great, actually! But what's the use of moderating the things that are bad for your health? That's like saying, "I only do drugs once a week." Your body will still be damaged in the long term. That's why I gave up processed sugar and fried food for good - I don't want to eat something harmful "in moderation."

In my opinion, the moderation should come in our portion sizes. You see, I used to eat seconds, sometimes even thirds, at meals. But then I started listening to my body and realized that it didn't want this large amount of nutrients and energy all at once. Therefore, I simply lowered my portion size to what my body needed. Sometimes, I eat a lot because my body needs that energy. Other days, I skip dinner because I'm still full and satisfied from lunch.

Well, that's my advice for the day, ladies and gentleman. I hope it was helpful, and I wish you luck and success on your health journey ~

Much love,

~ Natalyn <3

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