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Nutrition for Children and Teenagers

For many young adults, going away to college is their first experience with actually living away from home. They are now completely in charge of taking care of their own meals. There are many tempting substitutes that can take the place of good healthy meals and snacks.

Vending machines can be tempting when you are on the run from class to class. Take a look before you push the buttons. The majority of those tempting treats are full of fat and calories. For instance, a Twix bar contains 14 grams of fat and 280 calories; Peanut M&M's contain 11 grams of fat and 200 calories; a Mr. Goodbar contains 17 grams of fat and 270 calories; cheese peanut-butter crackers contain about 11 grams of fat and 210 calories; and a small bag of potato sticks contains 18 grams of fat and 250 calories. Better choices might include low-fat popcorn, pretzels, animal crackers, fig bars, low-fat granola bars, whole-wheat crackers, or low-fat breakfast bars. If you are trying to satisfy a sweet tooth, choose licorice, Lifesavers, gummy bears, or Rice Krispies bars, and eat them in moderation. They don't contribute to your nutritional intake, but they are at least generally low in fat and calories. Most of the treats found in vending machines will not hold you over for long because of their sugar content.

Essential: To save money and snack on something healthier than what you'll find in vending machines, carry a piece of fresh fruit or a granola bar with you for between-class snacking.

The other popular type of vending machine sells soft drinks. A regular twelve-ounce soft drink has about 150 calories, all coming from sugar. Save your money and carry a bottle of water with you. If water doesn't do it for you, choose a diet soft drink or something made with 100 percent fruit juice.

Fast-food and late-night ordering are very popular among college students. Both are quick and convenient. Remember that if you are short on cash, fast food is not exactly a bargain. Late-night munchies usually consist of ordering those extra large pizzas with everything on them, or sitting down with a bag of Doritos at 2:00 A.M. Your body needs fuel throughout the day to keep your energy levels up and keep you alert. Keep in mind that calories eaten during the day are more likely to be burned off than calories eaten just before bedtime, because you burn more calories when you are active. Try to stick to regular mealtimes; if you snack at night, make them light snacks. Go ahead and order pizza on occasion for a meal, but watch your toppings, which add most of the fat and calories.

Alcohol can be a culprit in those extra pounds gained as a freshman. If you are of legal drinking age, having a few occasional drinks is all right. But keep in mind that alcohol is high in calories and can also lead to late-night munchies. Another reason to drink in moderation is to avoid the effects it has on you the next day, such as headache, fatigue, nausea, and just feeling lousy. This can make it hard to concentrate in classes or to complete class assignments.

Fact: A twelve-ounce beer is 150 calories; a light beer is about 100 calories; a five-ounce serving of wine is about 105 calories; a shot (1.5 ounces) of whiskey is about 100 calories; and a 4.5 ounce Pina Colada is about 250 calories.

Healthy College Eating 101
Just because you are away from home does not mean it is time to forget all the good nutrition habits you learned as a kid. You may just need a bit of a refresher. Try these tips:

  • Remember to eat three meals every day, including breakfast. It may seem like you can function on caffeine alone, but if you routinely skip meals, your brain and body will fail you when you need them most.
  • Carry a water bottle with you everywhere you go. That way you can save money by not buying soda and other sweetened beverages, avoid unwanted calories, and ensure that you're well hydrated.
  • Grab a piece of fruit every time you leave the dining hall, and carry it with you for a quick snack on the go.
  • Take a balanced multivitamin every day with breakfast, just to ensure you are getting what you need. Don't let a supplement take the place of healthy foods, just let it round out your daily diet.
  • Take a quick trip to the grocery store so you can keep quick nutritious snacks in your room: pretzels, low-fat popcorn, high-fiber crackers, low-fat breakfast bars, and unsweetened breakfast cereal. Buying snacks at the grocery store instead of the vending machine will save you money too!
  • Invest in a small dorm room refrigerator to keep other healthy snacks such as fat-free milk, low-fat yogurt, low-fat string cheese, and fruits and vegetables. This way, when you are in a pinch for time, you still have something healthy to eat.
  • Avoid keeping high-calorie foods such as candy and cookies in your room. This makes it way too easy to snack on these foods all day long!
  • Eat a variety of different foods. There is more than macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, and ramen noodles out there, so expand your horizons. Spend your dollar wisely, but be sure to include fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products every day.
  • Make it your goal to try one new food each week. Experiment with vegetarian meal options such as veggie burgers. Share your meal with a friend so you can both experience something new. Or both of you can get something different and try each other's!
Basically, take care of yourself all the way around, and get plenty of sleep and exercise.

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Copyright © 2002 by Kimberly A. Tessmer. Excerpted from The Everything Nutrition Book: Boost Energy, Prevent Illness, and Live Longer with permission of its publisher, Adams Media Corporation.

To order this book visit Amazon.com.


August 29, 2014



Eating a colorful diet or fruits and veggies helps ensure your child is getting the nutrients he needs to keep his brain sharp while at school. Aim to pack three or more different colored foods in his lunch (or for snack) every day.


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