College students coming home for the summer can be faced with a rude awakening when it comes to health and nutrition. Whether they've gained the "freshman 15" or realized that off-campus exercise takes planning, many find that life outside the school year can pose unexpected challenges.
Miranda Westfall, program manager and clinic dietitian at the UCLA Fit for Healthy Weight Program, says summer is the perfect opportunity for students to begin focusing on nutrition, cooking and physical activity. After all, they’ll face these challenges – on a more permanent basis – after graduation.
In order to get on track to a healthier diet and lifestyle, Westfall suggests students get a grasp on areas of difficulty and then begin making manageable changes.
Tackling the underlying issues
For students who gained too much weight, Westfall suggests identifying what may have contributed to the problem. She recommends that students ask themselves:
Once students have identified the problem area, they should start by making changes – but not drastic ones.
"We have a tendency to go overboard and want to change everything at once, but then we’re easily discouraged when we aren’t able to follow through on all of our goals," Westfall says. "This is a recipe for failure."
Instead, Westfall calls for manageable steps. Some examples:
Small changes such as these, she notes, will be sustainable and lead to big progress.
Making nutritional changes
After leaving high school and the parental influence behind, many college students make poor nutrition choices in college. Ultimately, they can fail to take responsibility for their own nutrition. Summer, Westfall says, provides the perfect opportunity to learn.
"Learning how to shop for food and cook allows a student to take control of their own diet, weight, and health," Westfall says. "This is a good time for students to learn how to cook healthy, tasty recipes that they will have in their culinary toolbox for a lifetime."
These easy steps, Westfall says, can have a big impact:
While these sorts of changes require some effort, Westfall says, they're well worth it. Focusing on diet and exercise during the summer will give students the resources they need to make the next year a healthy one.
Tags: college, college students, cooking, diet, dieting, dietitian, dietitican, diets, eating healthy, exercise, healthy eating, Miranda Westfall, News & Insights, nutrition, RD, registered dietitian, students, UCLA Fit for Healthy Weight Program, weight, weight management