Healthful Hints: Nutrition facts: Making and keeping healthy habits at the dinner table

Posted by Zoe Silver

Halloween has come and gone and left us with a massive pile of candy staring down from our top shelf. This time of year, eating well is a really difficult goal to maintain. D-hall cookies and candy apples call our name, the cold weather sends some of us into a period of laziness and we begin to let ourselves indulge a little too much. But it is never too late to start fresh — literally.?

We are blessed with an amazing variety of fresh foods here at Skidmore, and if we take the time to learn a little bit about nutrition, we can all find appetizing, healthy alternatives to our less-healthy dietary habits.

Let's start with the basics: serving size. Given the buffet-style set-up of D-hall, it is really easy to blow things out of proportion.

Try using your hand as a measuring tool next time you fill up your plate. You should aim for a piece of protein (meat, chicken, fish) the size of your palm, which equates to about three ounces. You can use your fist to measure one cup; you should have about five servings of fruits and vegetables of approximately this size every day.

As an overall rule of thumb, always wait about 20 minutes before you go back for seconds; it takes this long for your body to begin to digest and to send your brain the signal that you are full.

Whole grain options like brown rice, whole-wheat bread and pasta, etc., are tricky to find in the dining hall, but keep an eye out for them. In contrast with starchy, white grains, whole-grains are much more nutritious and high in fiber than refined or white grains. If you feel passionately about the fact that the dining hall should provide these more regularly, speak up. Fill out a napkin (our special version of a comment card) and let D'hall staff know by pinning it to the cork board by the entrance. The fuel they provide us is all we have to work with, so it is important that they give us healthy options.

Unfortunately, however, there won't always be an obvious healthy option when you survey the dinner menu. But, if you take a little bit more time to pick foods from different stations, you can always find a nutritious and hearty meal. Hit up Emily's Garden first and check out the option there. But remember, just because it is vegetarian does not mean it is healthy.

Watch out for fried foods and avoid them when you can. If nothing is catching your eye at Emily's, check out the Diner. This is usually where non-vegetarians will find their main source of protein for the meal. Mixing and matching between stations is a good idea; a protein from the Diner, a serving of vegetables from Emily's and maybe a whole grain side dish from Global Café, like brown rice.

The food doesn't go away when we leave the dining hall, though. Friday nights present us with many opportunities to indulge in a treat, and it is OK to do so once in awhile. Allow yourself to occasionally eat your favorite unhealthy foods, but choose them sparingly and only those that you really love. Also, learn to say "no." Just because someone offers you a slice of pizza at 1 a.m., and just because it is there, doesn't mean you have to take it. Chances are, there will be a time when someone offers you a slice and you also really want it, which would be a more appropriate time to indulge.

In between the healthy eating, find time to drink as much water as possible. An impressively large percentage of our body is composed of water. It is rejuvenating and can improve our overall quality of life by reducing headaches, aiding the immune system and more. Aim for six eight-ounce glasses a day. A few good ways to start this habit include: carrying around a water bottle wherever you go, drinking one glass with each meal, drinking one glass immediately when you wake up in the morning and flavoring your water with a lemon or lime wedge.

Like any habit, it will take a couple of weeks to form, but after a while you will find yourself naturally reaching for the glass, and you will undoubtedly see positive changes in your overall health.? 

Until next time, eat healthy, stay happy and don't forget your H2O

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