Effects of bad eating habits in college can linger: Hit the salad bar and load up on fruits

By Victoria HILLS ’14 

Co-Editor in Chief

If the White Rabbit from “Alice in Wonderland” were a Wellesley student, his classic refrain would probably sound something like “No time to eat a breakfast, no time to make a salad. I’ll just grab some pizza. I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!”

Unfortunately for both the Rabbit’s poetic rhythm and our long-term health, prioritizing convenience over nutrition could have deadly effects. Your lousy eating habits in the campus dining halls could impact the rest of your life—even if you return to eating healthily after you graduate.

Only about 10 percent of Americans eat a balanced diet, and studies have found that the percentage is even lower among college students. Our diets are typically high in sodium and fats but lacking in fruits and vegetables. Nutritionists blame students’ snacking and unplanned meals, identifying lack of money and time as major culprits.

The long-term effects of our poor habits include heart disease and cancer. Short-term effects, however, include decreased energy, shorter attention spans and weight gain. High-fat diets paired with minimal exercise can cause arteries to begin to harden even in college-aged students.

Wellesley dining halls abound with students staring morosely at dozens of options while claiming that it’s impossible to eat healthy on campus. Not only is this false, but AVI Fresh can produce nutrition information for each of its dishes on demand. The salad bars at each of the dining halls have only gotten better over the past several years; these days Stone-Davis frequently boasts walnuts and pecans. Plain rice and 12-grain breads are rarely unavailable. Chicken makes a regular appearance in most dining halls, especially the Lulu.

But what to do with the options in front of you? Nutritionists often recommend the “plate method.” Divide up your plate and assign half the space to fruits and veggies, allot a fourth to grains and fill the final fourth with a source of protein.

Why bother changing? If you’re not motivated by a bleak future plagued by heart problems and other health issues, know that eating a proper diet can improve cognitive abilities. The glucose in fruit enhances mental alertness; eating breakfast improves short-term memory and attention; the omega-3 fatty acids in fish boost brain health; and the natural stimulants in dark chocolate act like caffeine to improve attentiveness. If your 40-year-old self is too hazy to care about, direct your concern toward how your future self will handle the next exam.

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