The College Diet

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Every time I come home from college, my family asks me roughly the same four questions: Do you have a boyfriend? What are your plans after college? How are your classes? What are you eating? The last question is usually the easiest: food. But what kind of food are college students really eating? Yes, schools claims to have “healthy” dining options, but college students love late night snacking, and who really wants to eat from the salad bar after a rigorous library session?

Ramen noodles and frozen dinners are the quintessential food groups for broke and busy college students. They are quick to make, only require a microwave, and are extremely cheap. The problem with the college diet is that these foods are unhealthy because they don’t give us the nutrients we need in a given day.  Let’s look at ramen noodles for example.

Ramen noodles extremely high in fat and sodium, which can lead to kidney issues, high blood pressure and increases the risk of strokes and heart failure. A brick of noodles contains eight grams of fat, half of which are saturated fat. Saturated fat is the bad fat that is known to clog arteries and raise cholesterol. Ramen noodles contain about half of the suggested daily value for saturated fat. If that isn’t enough to scare you, maybe the 1,560 grams of sodium in each ramen cup will. For reference, the FDA recommends 2,300 grams per day, which means a cup of ramen contains over half the suggested amount.

The chemical tertiary-butyl hydroquinone (TBHQ) is a preservative used to keep the noodles fresh in their package. This chemical is not easily digestible and has little nutritional value. It takes your stomach a long time to process ramen noodles, which can also lead to the health problems listed above.

Speaking of chemicals, some frozen dinners are packed full of chemicals so that when you microwave them, something that smells and looks appetizing results. Yes, there are healthy microwavable dinner options, but the ones that are sold in Dutch Treats are not on the list.The best way to pick a frozen dinner out of the freezer section is to read the label. Stouffer’s Mac and Cheese is one of the worst microwavable options and brands such as Marie Calendar, Banquet, DiGirono and Jimmy Dean offer some of the unhealthiest options that are high in calories, fat and sodium.

Reading labels carefully is the best way to determine which are good for you, and which are packed full of chemicals – if you can’t understand the ingredients list, don’t eat it. Also, make sure you know have many servings are in each dinner. (Stouffer’s Mac and Cheese has two). As far as ramen noodles go, avoid eating them as much as possible and you will be two steps closer to improving your college diet.

Click here to hear my commentary on Hofstra University’s dining options!

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