By JESSICA REDIKER
Whether you slept in and forgot to pack a lunch (for the fourth time in a week,) or you’re living with roommates who constantly steal your food, purchasing your meals can be a common choice, but it doesn’t have to be an unhealthy one.
Navigating your way through the sea of options to the selection of healthy menu items available at Tim Hortons, Pizza Pizza, Mr. Sub and the main cafeteria can be difficult. Temptation lurks around every corner, waiting to pull its victims into a world of chocolate, trans fat and soft drinks.
In a moment of cram-session exhaustion, it is easy to reach for a sugar rush, but this is one of the common temptations students should fight off, according to Katie Neve, president of An Apple a Day Nutrition, a nutrition centre in Kitchener that helps clients achieve their dietary and health goals.
“When we eat too many carbohydrates, which may come in the form of breads, pizza dough, pastries or, in its purest form, simple sugar, then we tend to have high spikes in our energy levels and then large crashes. The body is only designed to process carbohydrates in two-hour stints,” she said, explaining that taking in a lot of sugar will only ever give a two-hour “high,” followed by a crash.
This is why protein is the nutrient a student should reach for, especially when they are lacking sleep.
“Protein helps to level out these sugar spikes in our bloodstream,” Neve said, adding that protein can come not only from meats, but nuts, seeds and cheeses.
However, carbs should not be avoided, and according to Neve, should actually make up about 50 per cent of a meal, while only 30 per cent of the meal should be protein.
The other 20 per cent should be made up of good fats such as those found in cheeses or meats.
So what are the best dining options to fulfill the recommended plate proportions?
Eric Wood, executive chef at Conestoga College, said the easiest way to eat a nutritious meal is to buy food from places where there is an element of personal control over what goes onto the plate.
“The first place you should come if you’re really interested in health is the stir-fry station, because it’s entirely customizable,” said Wood, adding that there is a selection of fresh vegetables and meats available. However, Wood does not see eating healthy as any hard and fast rule, he believes in personal responsibility.
“No one should be surprised that burgers and fries are not the greatest things in the world to put in your body, but I think that people should be allowed to please themselves and practise things in moderation,” said Wood, who is responsible for the planning and creation of Menutainment’s daily specials.
Neve agrees that moderation is important and that pleasing yourself with a treat now and again isn’t all bad.
“I always encourage people to have a guilty pleasure food that they treat themselves to once a week … It’s amazing how knowing you have a treat coming will make you stick to your guns,” said Neve, who approves of a weekly trip to Pizza Pizza as a treat food, but recommends opting for a slice with lots of veggies.
Mr. Sub, Tim Hortons and Coyote Jack’s are all safe destinations as well, as long as students are choosing items that are high in carbs and protein, and low in fatty extras such as creamy salad dressings and fried foods.
Above all else, both Wood and Neve stress that eating with nutrition top of mind is not an exact science, and each person is different. Personal preference, dietary concerns and convenience all vary from person to person, and when someone is unsure of what options are available, they should ask a chef.