CU student Stuart Maynard loads up his tray for lunch at the Center for Community on CU’s campus.
CU student Stuart Maynard loads up his tray for lunch at the Center for Community on CU's campus. ( Phil McMichael )
Getting started

Healthy eating starts with learning new ways to eat, such as adding more fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains, plus cutting back on foods that have a lot of fat, salt, and sugar. A change to healthier eating also includes learning about balance, variety, and moderation.

Aim for balance: Most days, eat from each food group-grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, and meat and other proteins, including beans. Listen to your body. Eat when you're hungry. Stop when you feel satisfied.

Look for variety: Be adventurous. Choose different foods in each food group. For example, don't reach for an apple every time you choose a fruit. Eating a variety of foods each day will help you get all the nutrients you need.

Practice moderation: Don't have too much or too little of one thing. All foods, if eaten in moderation, can be part of healthy eating. Even sweets can be OK.

Source: WebMD.com

MyPlate.gov

The U.S. Department of Agriculture launched MyPlate.gov, a guide to healthier eating, in June, 2011. It replaced the well-known food pyramid designs that had been around for 19 years. Here are some of the USDA's tips:

Choose steps that work for you and start today.


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Balancing calories

Enjoy your food, but eat less

Avoid oversized portions

Foods to increase

Make half your plate fruits and vegetables

Make at least half your grains whole grains

Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk

Foods to reduce

Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals -- and choose the foods with lower numbers

Drink water instead of instead of sugary drinks

Campus dietician

The University of Colorado has a registered dietitian available at Wardenburg Health Center. Call 303-492-2030 to set up an appointment. They can support you in working with a variety of nutrition-related concerns, including:

-- Diabetes

-- Disordered eating

-- Food allergies or intolerances

-- Gastrointestinal problems

-- General healthful eating

-- Healthy weight management

-- High blood pressure

-- High cholesterol

-- High triglycerides

-- Iron deficiency anemia

-- Meal planning on a budget

-- Polycystic ovarian syndrome

-- Vegetarian meal planning

Source: colorado.edu/healthcenter

Eating a greasy burger or a large pizza sometimes sounds like a much better idea than... not doing that.

Local experts say that eating healthy is important -- and that even things like said greasefests can fit in, if you do it right.

"Healthful nutrition can include all foods," said Natalie Murphy, dietitian at the University of Colorado's Wardenburg Health Center. "Students may stray from eating regularly, but even foods like Taco Bell can fit into a diet. It may not fit every day, but even pizza provides a good balance. Pizza has protein when ordered with meat or cheese and putting an array of vegetables as toppings helps, too."

Nutritionist Eileen Faughey at Boulder's Nutrition Connections agreed, and said that even just eating a side salad with a slice of pizza is a good idea.

"Whatever you do, always try to upgrade the diet," Faughey said. "No matter what you're eating, you can make it healthy."

Set a schedule

Murphy said students should set up a regular schedule for eating meals and snacks -- similar to setting a class schedule. She said to try to not go more than four to five hours between snacks and meals.

"When you eat your meals in the dining hall, be conscious of having a balanced plate by dividing the plate into thirds with protein, grains and fruits or vegetables," Murphy said.

Murphy recommends lean cuts of meats, fish, tofu, tempeh, beans and cheeses as proteins.

She said rice, brown rice, quinoa, potatoes or winter squash are good grains to eat and leafy greens, kale, cauliflower or carrots as non-starchy vegetables.

Putting dressing on a salad will help provide some essential fatty acids, and avocado and cheeses are good for well-balanced snacks, she said.

Healthy snacks

Faughey recommended some healthy snacks to bring to campus such as fresh or dried fruit, nuts of all types, yogurt, bags of fresh vegetables with hummus, smoothies, peanut butter, whole grain crackers and even tuna and chicken that comes in the single-serving packages.

"One thing that helps to keep on track is to plan ahead," Faughey said. "By the time you're hungry, it's too late. Get some healthy options at the grocery store and make sure to have food available in the dorm room for when you are hungry."

If students do slip up on a diet, it isn't the end of the world, Faughey said.

"They should just be aware of the circumstances surrounding the slip-up," Faughey said. "Did you get too hungry? Were you too stressed? You didn't have food available? No matter what the cause is, if a person does slip up, just get right back on track for the next meal or next snack."

Plan ahead

Murphy said off-campus students can learn simple ways to cook with online recipes and planning meals ahead of time helps.

"Try to have one to two meals a day that you prepare at home," Murphy said. "Get a crock pot and make meals ahead of time and freeze the leftovers into portions. Start a garden or an herb box on your balcony. Choose fresh whenever you can when it comes to meats and cheeses. When things are out of season, have a sack of frozen veggies in your freezer.

"These can all be powerful ways to connect with nutrition."

Faughey said good nutrition is beneficial to a student's standard of living.

"It's worth investing yourself into a healthy lifestyle," Faughey said. "Eating well can give people more energy and help them improve performance with activities."