By Sarah Roberts
It may seem like health success requires drastic lifestyle changes, but it’s the small things that can make a world of difference. And what better time than the cusp of summer to make some simple diet changes? These six simple tips will improve your physical and mental well being, and they’re easy enough to start today.
Swap a cup of coffee for a cup of tea
Coffee: a college student’s savior. But just how much coffee is too much? If you find yourself struggling to fall asleep at night or experiencing midday crashes, it may be a sign you’ve consumed too much of this liquid gold. If you’re reaching for your second (or third) cup of coffee, opt for a cup of tea instead. Tea has far less caffeine than your average cup of joe, and it has many health benefits. Time Magazine goes on to describe reasons for drinking tea, including the amazing antioxidants found in tea and its ability to lower your risk of disease and boost your exercise endurance.
Choose wholesome foods at snack time
Coffee isn’t the only reason for mid-day crashes — our snacks are also culprits. If your snacks consist of things like chips, candy bars, sugary drinks and cookies, you’re doing it wrong. The grease, sugar and bad fat in these products contribute to feelings of fatigue and bloating. Instead, package veggie cuts, pretzels and hummus or fruit with nut butter and trail mix to take to class or work. I promise your body and mind will thank you.
Make meat another side dish
More likely than not, meat is still the central focus of your meals. I’m no vegetarian, but I am a firm believer in making meat a side dish. You’ll still consume plenty of protein from a smaller portion, and this way you make more room for complex carbs and vegetables on your plate.
Add fruit, cucumber or mint to your water
It’s no secret that the key to a healthy lifestyle includes water — and a lot of it. Instead of drinking juices, energy drinks, blended coffees and other sugary drinks throughout the day, add assorted fruit, cucumber or mint to your water. This way your water is detoxifying and lively, and you’ll probably feel more inclined to meet your daily intake as well.
Before eating out, research the restaurant’s nutrition facts
It can be tough avoiding restaurants — they’re readily available, easier than prepping your own meals and popular for social outings. I struggle with eating out because I like to know exactly what I’m putting into my body, and when I’m not cooking my own meals, that can get tough. The solution? Whip out that smartphone and do some research. Most restaurants have their nutrition facts listed on their website, and if they don’t, request them in-store. Restaurants especially like to hide sugar and sodium counts, so choose wholesome meals with numbers that aren’t off the charts (except for protein, fiber, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats). Unless it’s your birthday — calories don’t count on birthdays.
The last change, and perhaps most essential, is learning how to eat mindfully. As students and working adults we often rush through meals, unaware of what’s right in front of us. Change your mindset from food just existing to food being your fuel. Choose fresh, wholesome foods, balance your proportions, chew slowly, drink lots of water and allow your stomach to fill up properly. And most importantly, never take for granted the natural foods that nourish our bodies.
Born and raised in Austin, Sarah is a health nut with a passion for nutrition and fitness. In addition to being a communications student at UT, she is the world’s biggest dog lover, an innovative latte-maker and Kill Bill enthusiast. You can catch her at the gym, cuddling her dog Vinny or trying to find ways to healthify her meals in the dining halls. When not doing any of the above, Sarah is sharing her experiences with food and exercise through her health column at ORANGE. Click here to see her other articles.