When I first published The Good Mood Diet, I had a great time traveling around the country speaking to all kinds of audiences on my book tour. One of my favorite stops were college campuses. Now I frequently receive questions about how to apply the principles from the book while eating in college and university cafeterias. Here are a few tips.
1. Eat from the "Feel Great Foods" list.
The concept of "feeding your brain" really resonates with students. And since you are students, you are probably great with lists. Start with the "Feel Great Foods" list. One group of girls on a campus copied the list out of the book, enlarged it, and put it up on the wall in their cafeteria. It not only reminded the students about foods that make them feel good, but it ultimately influenced the daily menus served in the cafeteria.
2. Eat breakfast!
I know it's early, but get up and eat breakfast. It's usually the best, most edible meal at a cafeteria, and makes a huge difference in how you feel and perform for the rest of the day. Research is clear on many counts: people who eat breakfast control their body weight better; people who eat breakfast think more clearly and perform mental tasks at higher levels; and people who eat breakfast lead healthier lives, compared to those who skip breakfast.
3. Eat regularly, about every 3 hours.
You will probably have to have some snacks in your room to do this, but it will help you feel energized and focused, and help to limit random snacking of foods that don't help you feel great. Foods to have on hand, and to throw in a backpack or book bag include:
yogurt, mozzarella cheese sticks and other small wrapped hard cheese, hard boiled eggs, turkey jerky, fresh and dried fruit, nuts, small packs of vegetables, whole grain crackers.
4. Always combine proteins, carbohydrates and feel great fats every time you eat, except around exercise.
The 3 macronutrients work in concert with each other to fuel your brain and your body, and support mental and physical health and performance. Fats slow digestion, so avoid them immediately around exercise.
5. If you're feeling out of control with your diet, keep a food journal.
You really just need to create some new habits, and the best way to turn old habits into new ones is to write down what you are doing. It's just like any kind of learning: do it, say it, write it down. You are creating new pathways in your brain, and eliminating the old ones. The more repetitions that you have of the new habits, the more defined the brain pathways become. It takes time, and it takes effort, but it works. Just like college.
6. Get some real exercise.
College is stressful and sedentary, a negative combination. Exercise helps us not only relieve stress, but changes the biochemistry in the brain to enhance our ability to cope with stress. Taking the time to exercise will increase your work efficiency, helping you to work smarter, not harder. Walking around campus is great daily activity, but it doesn't get your heart pumping, your blood flowing, and your muscles contracting the way that concerted exercise does. Find an activity that you like, and do it. It will make you feel noticeably better.
7. Request a feel great foods care package.
I have a daughter in college right now, and I know that it's hard to take control of your food. It's especially tricky when you live in the dorm. Instead of sending cookies and candy in care packages, I send her dried fruit and nuts. I even send my homemade salad dressing. She supplements with some veggies and cheese in a small fridge. That way when she's studying late into the night she has feel great foods to eat, rather than the ubiquitous fried snack foods that make her feel sluggish and sleepy.
You don't have to make all these changes at once. Choose one or two that seem doable, and try them for a week. Once you get those down, add another, and then another. You'll be feeling great in no time!
Yours in a good mood,
Dr. Susan Kleiner