February 28, 2017

Sarah Neblock

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(Editor’s note: The UCCS Nutrition club submitted a guest column to The Scribe for publication.)

     Have you ever noticed that some of the best foods in life are some shade of tan?

     I didn’t, not until some friends of mine jokingly coined the term after ordering food at our favorite local hangout spot. Pizza crust, pretzel bites, french fries, wings, nachos, chicken tenders, tacos, garlic bread, chips – think about it. All one color scheme. There are other things they have in common, too.

     They’re cheap. They’re all over college campuses and restaurants that appeal to the younger crowd.

     They’re associated with all sorts of fun activities: watching sports, movie nights, parties, hanging with friends.

     And hey, they’re just so delicious.

     Unfortunately, there’s one more thing they have in common: they’re oh-so-unhealthy. I’m sure this isn’t a new fact for you.

     Most Americans are all fairly aware of why foods like pizza and chicken wings are bad for us. Loads of fat, high in calories and full of refined carbohydrates; these are all things that contribute to the nation’s epidemic of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

     But we eat them anyway. And this is not another preachy attempt at throwing nutrition facts at you and insisting that you lay off the tan food forever or suffer the consequences.

     Strict avoidance of our favorite foods is often extremely difficult and can backfire (resulting in bingeing or giving up completely). Instead, I’m a big believer that moderation in all things is a sound and sustainable nutrition philosophy. I’m sure you’ve heard that term before. But what does it look like, really?

     Here’s one challenge for you: instead of putting foods in categories of “good” and “bad,” a better way of organizing them is “regularly,” “occasionally” and “rarely.”

     Tan food definitely belongs in the “occasional” category, if not the “rarely” category. You could pick one meal a week. Or save it for those special times: your best friend’s birthday, passing that big midterm or the last night of vacation.

     But even then, practice eating mindfully. Eat slowly and savor each bite. Notice when you’re full and then stop. You might end up noticing that some of them don’t actually taste as good as you always thought they did.

     My second challenge is to add some more colors to your plate. I know, I know, I hear you groaning already. But really, it’s not so bad.

     One of the most important things you can do for your health is to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. The current recommendations are 2.5-3 cups a day of vegetables and 2 cups a day of fruit.

     They’re low in calories, which is awesome when you just want something to snack on while writing a paper and full of fiber. Fiber is important for keeping our digestive systems regular and keeps us feeling full longer.

     Most importantly, they give us so many vitamins and minerals our bodies need. Even if you know this, it certainly isn’t uncommon to not love fruits and vegetables. But our taste buds change, especially as we grow older, and it’s worth it to keep trying them and see what happens.

     Sometimes all it takes is a different way of preparation to make you like a vegetable you thought you hated. If you hate a vegetable cooked, try it raw or vice versa.

     Make a goal to add one colorful thing to your plate at every meal (and no, ketchup doesn’t count, sorry), and try at least one fruit or vegetable a week that you aren’t sure you’ll like.

     The lure of tan food is definitely strong. But you don’t have to let it beat you.