College Food Pyramid

The Downfalls of the College Diet

The “freshman fifteen” has become a common expression among college students in this generation. The notion that students will gain weight in college has become widely accepted simply by adapting this term. But what exactly are students eating that creates this phenomenon?

Pizza, beer, fries and coffee is how Kristine Simoes, a Specialist Professor in the Communication Department, would describe the typical college student’s diet and the reason as to why the “freshman fifteen” is usually gained.

Students tend to eat things that are readily available, cheap and that taste good. While it’s hard to generalize a typical college student’s diet, it’s safe to say that junk food is favored by busy students on the go.

“I try not to generalize diets and food choices, because those things are so personal, even among a collective group such as college students. However, I do see, more often than not, that students are surrounded by an abundance of processed foods, sugar-loaded beverages, and not-so-healthy choices,” Mary Harris, a Specialist Professor in the Communication Department, commented.

Students are, in fact, consistently surrounded by unhealthy food choices. Whether that be in the dining hall, student center or fast food restaurants that deliver in the area, it’s easy for students to eat an unhealthy meal.

While there are good, healthy alternatives on and off campus, students tend to gravitate towards fattening, highly saturated foods. It’s easier for students to grab a slice of pizza before class than to take time to create a healthy meal. For busy students, convenience is key.

These particularly bad habits can have a negative effect on a student’s body as well as their productivity in the classroom. Simoes feels that a carbo-load will lead to a crash in the afternoon/early evening and dehydration from a large amount of alcohol consumption. Eating poorly can affect a student’s focus in the classroom and could even lower their participation levels.

“By fueling our bodies with the appropriate nutrition, water, sleep, etcetera, we can perform at our best,” Harris explained. Eating unhealthy foods that are packed with sugars and carbohydrates have can even contribute to higher levels of anxiety. Jitters caused by an overload of caffeinated beverages can also spike those anxiety levels and become counterproductive. While it is commonplace that students eat poorly, there are times during the year that health kicks are popular.

“I think eating patterns change depending on the time in the school year. Students tend to eat more unhealthy around periods like finals week and healthier when the work load decreases,” Samantha Marella, a business marketing student, commented.

During the beginning of the semester it is more likely that college students will have the urge to eat healthier due the lessened work load and fresh start that comes with a new semester.

Marella describes her diet as sporadic. “Sometimes I eat five small healthy meals a day but some days I don’t eat anything until I go to Taco Bell at midnight and order everything on the menu,” she explained.

On the other hand, junior communication student Clare Maurer’s diet consists of sushi and coffee, two extremely popular choices of students at the University. “I like the idea of eating healthy and maybe one day I’ll attempt that lifestyle, but it’s not in the cards for me anytime soon,” admitted Maurer.

For students that have similar habits, Harris offers healthy alternatives like fresh fruit with a small handful of unsalted nuts or seeds. “A smoothie is quick and packed with nutrition and fiber. Another easy one is a loaded sweet potato topped with veggies, beans, and salsa. It just takes a little creativity and planning ahead, but the possibilities are endless,” she added.

While the typical college diet can be interpreted as consisting of junk food and sugary snacks, there are many students on this campus that have an active lifestyle and eat clean. Eating healthy has many benefits and can lead to improvements in our lifestyle and create a positive college experience.