A healthy diet may be difficult to maintain in college with a
limited budget and the convenience of fast food restaurants, but
dietary guidelines have been updated to help students keep on
The Department of Health and Human Services and the Department
of Agriculture recently released recommendations for the new
dietary guidelines for 2005.
These guidelines, updated every five years since 1980, “provide
authoritative advice for people 2 years and older about how good
dietary habits can promote health and reduce risk for major chronic
diseases,” according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans Web
The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, a committee of
experts in nutrition and health, will review the recommendations
and decide if revisions to the 2000 guidelines are necessary.
Pat Kendall, a professor and extension specialist in the
Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, said the
recommendations update nine health standards.
“The basic premise of the guidelines is to eat a variety of food
from basic food groups while staying within energy needs,” Kendall
Other recommendations include eating whole-grain breads and
cereals for a good source of fiber and eating only lean meats.
Dawn Clifford, a registered dietician at Hartshorn Health
Service, said consuming a variety of different foods can prevent
routine eating habits.
“Oftentimes college students get in a rut of pizza, beer, burger
and fries, eating the same thing every day,” Clifford said.
“Remember to mix it up, get from different groups and make foods
For the first time, the guidelines also recommend physical
“(The recommendations for the new) dietary guidelines differ in
focusing on encouraging people to be physically active,” Kendall
said. “With the increasing issues with obesity, (the advisory
committee) is beginning to focus on the importance of being
While 30 minutes of physical activity per day was once
considered adequate, today it is considered baseline, Kendall said.
Recommendations now include adding 60 minutes of moderate to
vigorous activity per day for an adult.
Moderate activity includes walking at a brisk pace and vigorous
activities such as running or playing sports are recommended,
“(The committee) is shooting for physical activity every day,”
Clifford said. “We are lucky we are forced to walk on campus, but
what else can you do to get your heart rate up? Taking the long way
instead of direct route or parking far away provides those extra
minutes of activity.”
Adrian Abeyta, a freshman open-option major, agreed that
physical activity plays a key role in staying healthy. He
recommended that students use the Student Recreation Center to help
“I think the biggest (mistake) is not working out as much as you
should when the accommodations are available to them at the rec
center,” Abeyta said.
Drinking alcohol in moderation was another key recommendation to
the guidelines, Kendall said.
“Alcohol can be a huge source of calories,” Kendall said. “It is
recommended adults choose to drink no more than one drink per day
for women and two for men. One drink can have around 150 calories
and if you are adding (mixers) it’s even more.”
Clifford and Kendall both recommended drinking a glass of water
in between beverages to reduce the amount of alcohol consumed.
While these guidelines provide straightforward advice, Clifford
said obstacles exist for college students to maintain healthy
“The first (obstacle) is budget. College students are often
tight for money,” Clifford said. “The second is time. Also,
(college students) often don’t know how to eat healthy.”
Kendall recommended college students do their own cooking.
Stir-fries including rice, vegetables and a small portion of lean
meat are recommended for a quick and easy meal. She added that
eating smaller portion sizes helps control calorie consumption.
“One of the biggest mistakes is when you don’t pay attention to
your hunger and fullness cues,” Clifford said. “Your body tells you
how much you need and if you don’t listen you can overeat or
sometimes you’re hungry and ignore it because there is no time or
you’re worried about gaining weight.”
Laura Dixon, an exchange student studying psychology and
philosophy, said she thinks it is easy for college students to
neglect their health and nutrition.
“There’s no time to think about your health,” Dixon said. “I
think (some mistakes) are not sleeping enough and relying too much
on fast food.”
Clifford recommends taking baby steps toward the goal of a
“There are nine guidelines, I recommend not taking them all on
at once,” Clifford said. “If fruits are lacking, work on that. Once
you master it then move on to the next. (Trying all nine at once)
could be very overwhelming.”