The constant struggle to eat healthy and in moderation is a normal problem for many collegiettes. We all love a good 2 a.m. pizza binge or McDonald’s run, but there are definitely certain foods we should limit in our diets to keep our health in check. However, there is not a single thing that you should absolutely never eat.
According to Dr. Jessica Jones, a registered dietitian and adjunct professor at Messiah College, “A common myth is that there are good foods and bad foods, but there aren’t. All foods can be included in a healthy diet, as long as they are eaten in moderation.”
That being said, there are still foods to avoid eating on a regular basis, especially if you’re looking to reach your fitness and nutrition #goals.
1. Potato chips
Nothing beats our desire for a salty snack quite like potato chips. Whether you’re an original flavored or sour cream and onion type of girl, chips rarely disappoint.
However, after the PMS cravings tone down, we recommend limiting your potato chip intake. Every brand is a bit different, but they are often high in empty calories, salt and trans fats. When combined, these three factors can influence the way you feel and can even make you feel bloated.
When it comes to differentiating between different brands, Dr. Jones says, “A potato chip is a potato chip; all brands are essentially the same regardless of the flavor.”
She also had some great advice when it comes to portion control while crunching on your favorite kind of chips. “I would recommend taking a handful and putting it in a bowl, and then putting the bag away, or keeping snack-sized bags around to help balance out portions. If you do want more chips, it then becomes a conscious decision to go back and get more versus mindlessly eating from the bag” she says.
If you’re looking for a healthier alternative to classic potato chips, Dr. Jones recommends “baked chips and crunchy veggies with ranch/hummus/peanut butter dip, or any dip for that matter!” To maintain a balance between healthy and treating yourself, Dr. Jones says, “if you eat potato chips daily with a sandwich, maybe try a side of crunchy veggies with dip or any kind of baked chips 2-3 days of the week, and have your regular chips on the remaining days.”
2. Fatty meats
There is nothing wrong with having meat in your diet, since lean beef and chicken are great sources of protein and iron. However, you should limit eating fatty meats like salami and sausage on a regular basis.
The main culprit in these types of meats is saturated fat. For many collegiettes, your total daily saturated fat intake should be about 12 grams. When you eat a serving of many packaged meats, you will often go over this amount just from this one food item. By choosing lean meats and incorporating them alongside other non-meat sources of protein, your diet will be more balanced and well-rounded.
Dr. Jones says that “lean chicken, ham, Canadian bacon and turkey provide good protein and a little less fat than salami, sausage and bacon.”
3. Ramen noodles
Although they are a common college staple, affordable and easy to make, Ramen noodles are not your healthiest dinner option.
One package contains 14.25 grams of fat, so you’re getting about 130 calories from fat alone. They also contain an above average amount of saturated fat, which can raise your risk for heart disease and wreck havoc on your digestive system.
Even though it’s both cheap and filling, limiting the amount of Ramen in your diet will help you to keep your fat intake in check and leave you feeling healthier.
4. Fast food
When you’re in a rush or waiting on a paycheck, heading to your fave fast food joint for dinner is often a common occurrence. It’s convenient and tastes so good, but it’s important to make sure you’re not eating it daily.
To keep your blood pressure and heart health in good condition, try to make sure you aren’t eating fast food more than once a week. Dr. Jones offered some fabulous advice for the times when you are trying to decipher between various fast food restaurants.
“Many fast food restaurants are expanding their menus to include side salads, entree salads and additional fruit, vegetable and yogurt options. Also, choosing grilled over fried meats at any fast food restaurant will be a good choice. I know that Wendy’s, Burger King, McDonalds, Taco Bell and Panera have perfectly healthy, balanced and tasty options available for customers wanting to make that choice” she says.
5. Frozen dinners
As finals draw near, finding the time to cook a nutritious meal is practically impossible. Frozen dinners take the pain out of cooking, since you can easily microwave a meal from your freezer and enjoy it in a matter of minutes.
The portion size of many frozen dinners is what tends to add an extra unhealthy layer to the meal, in addition to an excess amount of unhealthy fats and additives. Before you finish the meal, you probably have consumed a fair amount of your daily calories and a surplus of your recommended daily sodium intake.
How can you tell which frozen dinner options are healthier than others? Dr. Jones says “it’s hard to say which frozen dinners are the ‘best’ because often frozen dinners such as Lean Cuisine and Weight Watchers are extremely low in calories—between 200-300 calories a meal—which can leave you hungry.
To make the most of frozen dinners, she recommends “choosing a dinner that includes vegetables, protein and a carbohydrate and has between 500-600 calories a meal. This ensures better nutritional adequacy and would be comparable to a meal that you would be served at the cafeteria or would make on your own.”
By watching what you eat and allowing yourself to indulge with junk foods on occasion, you will satisfy all of your cravings without ruining all of your fitness achievements and healthy eating.
Like Dr. Jones said, a healthy diet is all about the 80/20 rule, which stresses the value of filling your plate with healthy foods 80 percent of the time and still allowing yourself to enjoy all of the other foods you love the rest of the time.
“It’s all about getting the best nutritional bang for your buck, in a sense,” she said, “but you can choose what you want to eat as long as it follows that type of model.”