Opinion | Prioritize living a healthy lifestyle

Garrett Marchand, Contributing Columnist

It is not easy being a full-time student. Classes, jobs and planning for the future are often very stressful for students, especially now that many of us are on our own for the first time.

For incoming students, living in a dorm with people you have likely never met before can be a difficult transition. It is never easy adjusting to a whole new way of life. 

Because incoming students are all experiencing a taste of newfound freedom for the first time, we often fall prey to making bad decisions for ourselves. Among the most detrimental choices we make is choosing the wrong food to eat.

According to the National Library of Medicine, college students gain between 3.5-6.6 pounds over four years of college education.

This study found frequent snacking, fried food consumption and low daily intake of fruits and vegetables were common among college-age students. This is no surprise, as it is hard, if not nearly impossible, to make healthy food for ourselves while living in a dorm. We have few options but to rely on Bama Dining or fast food for our daily calories.

From my experience at The University of Alabama, I have found it difficult to go even a day without eating out and consuming fried food. Like many incoming students, this is because I purchased an unlimited meal plan at the start of the year. 

This choice caused me to feel a constant compulsion to use my VIP meal every day of the week on one of the many dine-out options around campus. Unfortunately, most of these options are not good choices for one’s health.

Eating copious amounts of unhealthy food is not the only issue students have. In fact, many students report skipping meals like breakfast or choosing not to eat instead of eating the food available. This choice to skip eating certain meals has been shown to be detrimental to academic student performance. 

Healthier options do exist for new students. The dining halls, while not always as tasty as the foods available via VIP meals, offer wide varieties of non-fried options for each meal. But even there, one must not be tempted by the sweets, sodas, baked goods and the endless supply of pizza. No matter where we go, we cannot escape the temptations of unhealthy eating.

Simply having the option of grabbing fruits and vegetables is not all that is necessary to say that we are provided healthy options. More must be done to make the transition easier. Students should not be forced to seek out healthy food. It should be just as available — if not more so — than unhealthy food.

While all the options at the University aren’t healthy, there are ways students can maintain a healthy lifestyle in their first year. 

Avoid purchasing fried food daily. Use your dining dollars or VIP plan to purchase healthier meals. Familiarize yourself with the nutritional information provided by Bama Dining in the dining halls. Utilize the University’s recreational center, which has group exercise classes students can attend. 

It’s up to you to take the steps necessary to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle.