Healthy eating: how to diet in the Derb

With Van Zile, Derby, and Kramer dining centers offering multiple alternatives to students' meals, creating a healthy meal isn't much of a hard task to accomplish with a variety of foods being offered. (Vail Moshiri | The Collegian)

Moving to college is not an easy thing. No one quite prepares you for the reality check (socially and emotionally) that university life brings. Saying goodbye to loved ones, your cozy bed and home-cooked meals is never an easy thing.

Eating healthy without those home-cooked meals, however, is especially difficult. Making smarter decisions when it comes to our food is something we should all aspire to do. Though the importance of this was instilled in us at a young age, it’s still challenging.

“Health is a long-term commitment, not a short-term goal, and that establishing healthful habits early in life is important for a long life,” Daphne Oz, author of “The Dorm Room Diet,” said.

While Van Zile, Kramer and Derby Dining Centers offer many healthier options, it can be hard to make the right choice when fries are an option almost every day. So how do you do it?

First and foremost, take a step back.

Make a mental note of what you are eating. A lot of the time students don’t even realize that a campfire mocha with whip from Caribou Coffee, pizza from Pizza Shuttle and a glazed otis from Varsity Donuts add up. Your body counts these calories whether you’re paying attention to them or not.

When you understand what you’re eating, you can decide whether that greasy pizza is really better than waiting in line for stir-fry with fresh vegetables and protein from Willie Wok.

Incorporate healthier options into your meal

Salads seem to be synonymous with health, but healthy salads require a lot of ingredients, including ones college students may be afraid to try (like chick peas, spinach, cauliflower and peppers). These are pivotal to making a salad better. Make it a goal to try incorporating a serving of something new into a salad, like fruit, or going half-spinach and half-lettuce. Also, avoid drenching it in dressing.

Overall, don’t have the “lettuce only” mentality for each entire meal, because you’re going to end up hungry. Salads can be very fulfilling and quite tasty when loaded with all the colors. Frances Largeman-Roth, the senior food and nutrition editor at “Health” suggests students, “Counter (the Freshman 15) by filling your plate with at least 50 percent green stuff.” Green stuff could be a salad, cooked veggies, veggies in your stir-fry, or even celery with peanut butter.

“I always make sure I have fruits and vegetables,” Elizabeth Bittiker, sophomore in social work, said. “A main meal, maybe a sandwich with some form of protein, and I go to the salad bar to grab carrots or a salad with spinach, not just lettuce. Nutritional stuff.”

Reduce high sugar alternatives

The waffle maker at Derby and Kramer’s line is always backed up. This is often because people are choosing not to wait in line for a healthier option and instead are turning towards a less rewarding higher-calorie option. If you opt for waffles for at least three of your meals a week, reconsider your choices. You could easily cut this down to once or twice a week instead. Sandwiches are options every day for lunch at any of the dining halls.

To Whitney Cox, junior in electrical engineering, sandwiches are a good change of pace away from the waffle maker.

“Sandwiches are good because the dining halls offer a lot of vegetables and you can opt for a low-fat cheese and wheat bread,” Cox said.

On the other hand, if you can’t bear to ditch the waffles, be healthier by paring them with frozen fruit instead of syrup.

Avoid dessert

Although many are adamant that dessert is pivotal in a good meal, let’s be honest: the dining centers’ dessert buffet is often filled with hard cookies and dry cakes. Yet, we still save a portion of our stomachs for a sweet indulgence.

“I never did the dessert table because I knew that once I went once, I would always need it,” Bittiker said. “Instead, I make sure fruits and vegetables filled me up so I wasn’t really craving the sweet stuff.”

Bittiker’s adamance is admirable, but not all college students have the strength to abstain. Challenge yourself to cut dessert once a week, and don’t feel obligated to get sweets just because your friend is going to the dessert table.

Another way to avoid those sugary treats is to eat fruit after every meal, in order to get those natural sugars that satisfy your sweet tooth.

“I always try to get at least one banana or apple after each meal,” Macarena Cervera, junior in management, said.

Diet books are another way to develop a healthy eating plan, without necessarily going on a diet. One “diet” book that actually helped me drop a dress size and become healthier my first semester at K-State was Oz’s book, “The Dorm Room Diet.” Other great books to diet in college include: “The Dolce Diet: College Diet Guide,” “The Smart Student’s Guide to Healthy Living: How to Survive Stress, Late Nights, and the College Cafeteria” and “The Her Campus Guide to College Life.”

Many of us are not strangers to eating unhealthy, but with persistence, determination and better choices we all can become healthier adults.