Finals will be right around the corner when we all get back from Thanksgiving break. Stress is a very real part of college life, however, no matter what time of the semester. From class assignments, to final exams, to living with difficult roommates, it may seem like college causes more than its fair share of stress. In fact, according to the National College Health Assessment, more than 50% of Tufts students reported feeling more than the average amount of stress in the last 12 months.
A well-balanced, nutrient-dense diet of carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals help boost your immune system, energy levels, and mood. However, in times of stress, many people don’t think about healthy eating. They either skip meals or eat at fast food restaurants, which can lead to more emotional strain and cause a negative toll on their health over time.
So what can you do to eat healthy while under stress? Try incorporating these steps into your daily routine for a healthier (and happier!) day:
- Eat regularly, and try not to skip meals. Eating 3 balanced meals a day, which include all the food groups (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy products, and lean proteins), will keep you fueled to handle anything hectic throughout the day.
- Keep healthy snacks around. Good options include almonds, fruit, yogurt, string cheese, and granola bars. One or two snacks during the day will help you stay energized between meals.
- Cut back on caffeine. Drinking too many caffeinated beverages (coffee, energy drinks, soda) can cause anxiety, irritability, sleeplessness, and headaches. Drink more water to keep hydrated—the recommended 6-8 glasses a day.
- Try some stress management techniques instead of turning to food when you’re not hungry, but stressed and anxious. Meditate, talk about your problems with a close friend, exercise, or watch a funny movie. Also, the Counseling Center has a relaxation room you can use any time.
- If you think your stress eating is due to depression or anxiety, seek help from a mental health professional. Contact Tufts University’s Counseling and Mental Health Services at 617-627-3360.
Whenever you feel like the stress in your life is out of control, one way to help you control it is by eating healthy foods. By doing so, you’ll affect the way you sleep and feel emotionally and physically in a positive way.
- Campus Health Services at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 2007. Nutrition and Stress. Accessed at http://campushealth.unc.edu/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=246&Itemid=78 on July 26, 2011.
- United States National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health. 2011. Stress Management. Accessed at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001942.htm on July 26, 2011.
- University of Georgia Health Center. 2011. Nutrition and Nutrition: Healthy Eating When Busy or Stressed. Accessed respectively at http://www.uhs.uga.edu/stress/nutrition.html and http://www.uhs.uga.edu/stress/strategies.html on July 26, 2011.
By: Julia Canfield