Unhealthy eating habits are harmful to students, consider food resources

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December 5, 2017

Kassandra Pontilo

kpontilo@uccs.edu

Editor’s Note: Kassandra Pontilo is a guest columnist in this week’s issue of The Scribe. Pontilo has written this column as part of a project for HSCI 3520: Health Communication, to raise public awareness of a health issue.

    Despite the attempts to offer healthier choices at UCCS, only about one in five students who participated in a survey about their dietary preferences is considered to have healthy eating habits.

    While this may not seem too drastic, it means that only about 20 percent of the campus actually eats healthy. However, our campus is not alone.

    This plague of unhealthy eating habits is common among college campuses. According to the American College Health Association, 7.3 percent of students consume the recommended five or more servings of fruit and vegetables daily.

    Fruits and vegetables are two vital food groups to include in what is considered a healthy diet. While this percentage is lower than what the survey here on campus found, UCCS’ percentage is still shockingly low.

    Healthy eating has been a challenge for college students. College is a time when young adults are most likely to be introduced to making their own choices about their dietary habits.

    This is where the infamous “freshman 15” comes in. While some may believe this weight gain phenomenon to be a myth, about one in four students surveyed at UCCS say they have noticed a significant change in weight since starting college.

    For some, the newfound freedom of making decisions about their diet can lead to students prioritizing other factors over healthiness in their meals.

    Research supports this argument. Six factors contribute to predicting an adult’s food selection, including taste, cost, nutrition, convenience, pleasure and weight control, according to the 2009 scholarly article, “Factors Influencing Healthy Eating Habits Among College Students: An Application of the Health Belief Model.”

    Although food selection may be influenced by the six factors listed above, another reason as to why students aren’t eating healthy may be their lack of understanding what healthy really means.

    “Healthy” does not only refer to a diet that relies heavily on fruits and vegetables. Balanced diets are most beneficial for individuals, and they ensure that individuals receive all the nutrients their bodies need to function properly.

    A helpful tool to understand how much of each food group to consume is ChooseMyPlate.gov. This website gives users insight on how to portion correctly. While balancing a diet is important, students should also seek healthier alternatives to everyday food.

    While there are obvious alternatives such as swapping soda for water, other alternatives may not be as well-known.

    For example, olive oil and most liquid fats are unsaturated fats, which are beneficial for health. Using olive oil instead of butter when cooking allows individuals to consume fats that are helpful with things such as maintaining cholesterol.

    However, some students may not be able to seek out these alternatives, as they may lack access to a kitchen. For students who live in dorms, eating healthy may seem impossible.

    However, there are recipes for healthy, budget-conscious meals. One example of this is a five-minute burrito bowl, consisting of pre-cooked rice, avocado, black beans and toppings like sour cream.

    Similar recipes are listed in the article “22 Healthy College Recipes You Can Make in Your Dorm Room” by Anisha Jhaveri at Greatist.com.

    By just doing a little research, students can eat healthy on the budget they want.

    Along with this, knowing more about what makes foods healthy allows students to understand what to grab in the dining halls to ensure they consume a balanced and nutritious meal.

    Unhealthy eating habits are a problem that this campus, along with countless others across the country, faces.

    If UCCS students become more aware of this issue and change their diets, they will not only be helping themselves, but setting an example for future generations to come.

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