Summer is an exciting time for our graduating young adults as they finish up high school and head to colleges near and far. As parents, we celebrate this time to reflect on how far our little ones have come. Over the years, we’ve spent enormous amounts of time and energy — not to mention money! — making sure our kids have learned the necessary skills needed for playing their musical instruments, preparing for tests or excelling at sports.
As these kids are getting ready to move on to colleges and looking forward to a new phase in life, they may not yet understand the big and small challenges coming their way. Away from home for the first time and without access to full kitchens, kids have to make careful choices for meals. With the added pressure of classes, managing time, laundry, socializing, late nights, etc., food choices should be prioritized. Creating good food habits during one’s college years can help establish healthy habits for a lifetime.
Summer is a good time to inculcate some last-minute ideas and provide tips that can prepare them for their college meal-planning skills. You can start by inviting them to cook a meal one day of the week in the summer or asking them to plan the family’s food plan for a week. Or try teaching them a few quick meals that can be stored for later consumption. As you do this, keep in mind some fundamentals for establishing healthy eating habits:
- Stick to structure. Get into a routine, fitting in breakfast, lunch and dinner along with snacks as needed between meals. Having this set structure makes it easier to plan what you eat at each meal, giving you more opportunities to choose healthy foods.
- Know your options. Do a lap around the dining hall food stations so you know your options, and can pick from a variety of foods rather than impulsively choosing the first ones you see.
- Make yourself a balanced plate. Pick a big bowl of vegetables from the salad bar or hot bar and add 3 to 4 ounces of lean protein, such as beans, lean-cut chicken, turkey or fish. Grab a small bowl of whole grains on the side, such as rice, pasta, noodles or bread. Try yogurt with fresh fruit topping for dessert.
- Snack smart. Grab fresh fruit, chocolate milk, yogurt, veggies and hummus that you can stock in your dorm room fridge for late night snacks. Individually portioned packages of nuts and whole-grain granola bars can be good to carry along to classes.
- Mind your beverages. Choose water, sparkling water or fruit-infused water as your beverage of choice. Watch out for those wake-up-for-class drinks, mochas, pre- sweetened drinks and energy drinks, which are loaded with sugars. If you are looking for a caffeine boost, choose black coffee or tea with minimal sugar.