All returning students at Stony Brook this Fall semester of 2016 know that the university changed the meal plan system that had previously been in place. The campus, it seems, is in the process of transitioning to a mostly meal-swipe-based structure rather than the system of dining dollars in which students could choose a plan - bronze, silver, gold, or platinum - with a certain amount of points, corresponding to dollars, and replenish their balance at any point if need be.
For me, and for many other students at Stony Brook, this meant changes in our eating habits. As a general rule, I prefer to eat four to five lighter meals throughout the day rather than three squares (or in the case of the meal plan I considered the most affordable, seven dine-in meals per week with $400 in dining dollars). I have found that this way, it is much easier to reduce cravings and avoid the temptation of binge-eating from allowing oneself to get too hungry between meals. Therefore, the change was frustrating to me, as it limited the number of times I could visit the dining halls to eat “my way.”
After accepting the change in the status quo, I decided to make some adjustments of my own. In order to continue eating in the healthy manner to which I am accustomed, I planned to supplement my once-daily visits to the dining hall with protein bars, Greek yogurt, granola, and plenty of water (besides treating myself to sushi from Jasmine every so often). When I ate at the dining hall itself, I altered my former habits and stuck mostly to the vegetarian/vegan station, making sure to load my plate with plenty of vegetables as well as sources of protein like chickpeas, lentils, and quinoa. So as to make sure my diet was not lacking in any vitamins and minerals, I also took a multivitamin each day.From eating this way for an entire semester, I have noticed changes in the way I feel every day, as well as learned about the ways in which to construct one’s own healthy eating habits. For one, I discovered that, on average, eating a lighter, vegetable-based diet reduced sluggishness and gave me more energy from the abundance of vitamins in them. However, I also learned that caution is required if you want to exercise on a daily basis. If you do not take care to load up on protein and drink plenty of extra water, that same sluggishness will come back and take a toll on your energy level. To me, it was far preferable to eat lighter and healthier. It taught me to eat until I felt good, not until I felt full to bursting. In addition, a key is to never let yourself get hungry. Replenish your energy periodically, with healthy snacks, rather than waiting to eat until you are starving. There is absolutely more than one way to construct a healthy diet for yourself, and what worked for me may not work for everybody. However, I found that adjusting my eating habits to account for the new Stony Brook meal plan options gave me new energy to take on my studies.