Tuesday, January 17, 2017

How to Eat Healthy in College

Disclaimer: All of the opinions expressed in this post are my own. I was NOT compensated or sponsored in any way for this post. 

I am also not a health professional, so be sure to check in with your doctor before implementing any dietary or nutritional changes!

Hello, beautiful! Today, I want to talk to you about a unique experience I had recently, thanks to the health app Maven.

If you haven't heard of Maven, this app is revolutionary (in my opinion, at least!). Maven is an online health clinic designed by women, for women. With Maven, you can get an appointment with a health provider of any kind - whether you need a doctor, mental health professional, nutritionist, or even sex therapist! - and even get prescriptions for things like birth control.

At just $25.00, a 20-minute video appointment is convenient, inexpensive, and private. You don't need to schedule an expensive, annoying appointment with your doctor just to receive a referral, or even leave your house if you're feeling truly terrible.

Oh, and since you're a loyal reader of my blog, you can even use my referral code (9EDLC) to get your first appointment 100% free!

Those of you who have been with me since my first blog know that I'm no stranger to online health treatment. I used to use Talkspace for text messaging therapy. However, I wish that I had known about Maven before I signed up for Talkspace - not only is Maven cheaper, but it's more personal and would have gotten me the mental health treatment I needed in an efficient way.

I just had my first experience with Maven because I had a $25.00 credit for a free video appointment. Since I haven't been sick recently and I'm already seeing my own therapist, I decided to schedule a consultation with a nutritionist.

Personally, I've never seen a nutritionist before Maven. However, I have always been interested in the food I put into my body and learning easy tips for eating more nutritious meals. I have also been a vegetarian for five years, and was interested in seeing if I was getting all the nutrients I need while on this specialized diet.

I saw Maya F., and thought she was incredibly friendly, helpful, and sweet while still maintaining her professionalism during our appointment. Throughout the appointment, I even took notes on the advice she gave me so that I could share some of what I learned from her with all of you!

Please note that since I'm a vegetarian, not all of this advice may be relevant to you. However, I hope that you will keep an open mind and hopefully learn something useful to help you eat healthier in college!

Also, as an added bonus, you'll find my free three-day meal plan at the bottom of this post! If you're anything like me, you might have trouble thinking of fun and healthy meal ideas throughout the week - so, I took the liberty of putting together three days worth of nutritious breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks to take the guesswork out of it for y'all. Though I myself am a vegetarian, I even created additional plans for vegans and for carnivores to appeal to people of all diets :)

To claim this awesome freebie, simply sign up for my newsletter at the bottom of this post! You'll get the meal plans straight to your inbox ASAP. Just keep in mind that while the plans are based on Maya's advice, I myself am not a nutritionist and do not claim to know what is best for you or your body!

On that note, here were my Maven nutritionist's tips for a healthier college diet.

Tip #1: Eat Perfect Pairs

The first thing Maya did during our appointment was have me walk her through what I generally eat in a day. Then, she gave me suggestions for how I could improve my diet. Based on what I told her, I quickly learned that I needed to eat fewer carbs (surprise, surprise - if you know me, you know I love pasta, bread, and all things carby and delicious) and more protein and fats. I think this is a common trap for many vegetarians, since we know that things like pasta 

Maybe the simplest tip Maya gave me was to eat what she calls "perfect pairs." Basically, at any meal, you're going to want to pair two servings of carbs with one serving of fats and one serving of protein. Or, for a snack, pair one serving of carbs with either a fat or a protein - so, an apple with peanut butter, or crackers and a Babybel cheese wheel. 

Tip #2: Cut Carbs in Half (Not Out!)

Following the realization that I was eating way too many carbs, the next thing Maya told me was that I should try to pay more attention to serving sizes for carby things like grains and fruits. For example, did you know that one serving of carbs is only half a banana - NOT the whole thing? So, if you're going to have a piece of fruit with that sandwich, you'd best make it an open-faced sandwich to avoid eating too many carbs in one sitting.

However, while I definitely need to cut back on my carb intake (like many of us veggies probably do), I really appreciated that she didn't tell me to cut them out of my diet altogether. Carbs are an important source of fuel for the body, and we need them to survive. Without pasta, bread, and fruit we wouldn't have the energy to go about our daily lives!

Tip #3: Don't Rely on Beans for Protein

Today, I learned something that completely went against everything I learned in school, health class, and online: beans and legumes, while they contain protein, are actually categorized as carbs (much like whole grains like brown rice and quinoa, which also contain some protein). 

First of all, What?!?! As a vegetarian, this explains why my diet has become so carby: in my salads, I rely on things like chickpeas, black beans, and hummus to fulfill my protein intake. Little did I know that I was actually eating more carbs, not counteracting them with protein!

Without beans, I sort of felt like there were no sources of protein left, since I don't like traditional vegetarian sources like tofu or eggs. However, I learned that there's actually a ton of secret protein sources beyond the world of beans! Apparently, cheese, Greek yogurt, nut milk, pea protein (she suggested Amazing Grass or Vega for shakes - though personally, I bought the MRM Veggie Elite in Chocolate Mocha from Amazon - and Beyond Meat for meat substitutes), and even roasted edamame all work toward your daily protein intake. So, quit relying on the beans and start working in new sources of protein! Your body will thank you for it.

Tip #4: Eat Dairy!

In case you haven't caught on yet, one of my favorite things about Maya was that I felt like her nutrition advice was actually realistic. For example, she actually suggested that I eat things like cheese and Greek yogurt as sources of protein.

Coming from a nutritionist, I was pleasantly surprised to hear this advice! I LOVE dairy, yet I feel like everyone from Beyonce to Gwenyth has been ditching it lately. However, the key to doing dairy right, Maya said, was to make sure you keep your sources to the proper portion sizes. For Greek yogurt, that means one cup; for cheese, that means nothing bigger than a stick of string cheese.

Lately the big nutrition push seems to be "Go vegan, go vegan, go vegan," which, as a vegetarian, always makes me feel like I am always failing to live up to some golden standard. So, to hear from a nutritionist that it's actually okay to eat dairy - in moderation, that is - made me feel like I finally deserved a pat on the back!

Tip #5: Make Your Own Salad Dressing

Believe it or not, salads aren't always healthy. According to Maya, not-so-healthy toppings and salad dressings can take an otherwise healthy salad from good to bad real quick. For example, I'm a huge fan of the pesto caesar salad dressing at my school, but creamy salad dressings like caesar tend to be where all the unhealthy fats, sugar, and sodium hang out. 

Instead, Maya suggested relying more on oil-based than creamy salad dressings for your healthy fat intake. In fact, if your school offers this option, she said it's probably best to mix your own salad dressing. For example, at BU, all the salad bars have oil and red wine vinegar in them, so I'm a huge fan of putting those together on my salads. Maya also suggested a simple recipe of dijon mustard, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper - I haven't tried it yet, but it sounds incredible!

Tip #6: Swap Greek Yogurt for Mayo

This tip is a simple, yet effective way to cut down on fat and add a little extra protein into your diet! If you're anything like me, you love a little bit of mayo on your sandwiches, or mixed into things like pasta and potato salads. Yet while a little healthy fat is never bad for you, mayo isn't the best thing to put into your body. So, as a nutritious substitute, Maya recommended plain Greek yogurt as a healthy swap for mayonnaise in your diet.

One of the perks of choosing Greek yogurt over mayo  - especially for a vegetarian - is that Greek yogurt counts toward your protein intake for the day. As a vegetarian, I tend to have a hard time incorporating protein into my diet (Disclaimer: I don't like tofu or eggs), so this tip was a total game-changer for me! I predict I will definitely be using this healthy swap to get a little more protein and little less fat in my life.

Tip #7: Snack on Fats Late at Night

Personally, one of the times I tend to snack most often is late-night, usually around 11 or 12. (And I'm sure this is true for many college students, who tend to stay up late studying-slash-procrastinating on Pinterest.) It's during these times that my salty or sweet cravings hit their hardest, and I end up snacking on mini cookie bites or microwave macaroni and cheese cups that I later regret.

To help curb cravings, Maya said that fats are great for a late night snack, as long as you stick to your perfect pairs and match it up with a complementary carb. According to Maya, fats work well for snacking because they help you stay full longer, so they keep you from getting hungry quickly and bingeing on a salty or sweet snack that your body will regret. So, next time you find yourself starving at midnight, reach for some avocado toast or berries and dark chocolate. 

Tip #8: Double Your Water Intake

Finally, you probably knew it was coming, but we can't talk about nutrition without at least mentioning water. Honestly, I was a little embarrassed to admit to Maya that I was only drinking 1-2 water bottles per day. My low water intake is something I've been very conscious of lately and that I am actively trying to change, so I knew she would probably tell me to drink more. However, I was surprised to hear just how much more water she suggested I drink! 

Apparently, as an active college student, I should be drinking about twice as much water as I am right now. That means 3-4 water bottles a day. For me, since my water bottle holds about three cups of water, 3-4 water bottles a day would set me at right about 9-12 glasses of water per day - which seems like a lot! 

Before this, I thought the recommendation was eight glasses a day for everyone - and without Maven, I would have never known the truth! However, there's a good reason why I need to drink so much: since most of my meals are eaten out or in a dining hall, Maya said there's a good chance I'm taking in a lot more sodium than I should be eating in a day. And, what's the best way to flush that extra sodium out of your system? Yup, you guessed it - water! For that reason, college students might actually want to try drinking more water than the average person. Who knew?!

Congrats - you made it to the end of this post! Now, want to find out how you can get my FREE 3-day meal plan?

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