While college students aren’t typically nutrition gurus, they can still implement simple changes into their diets and routines that will enhance their energy, focus and overall well-being. For many, the health boost may be just what they need after the week of excess known as spring break.
Israel Villanueva, head culinary instructor at Del Mar College, said diet can affect grades.
“You’ve got to eat fresh and healthy if you want to succeed in school,” Villanueva said. “It’s vital you do all you can to improve and educate yourself as a student. Your education is what will see you through. It doesn’t matter how great of a talent you are, you have to have an education to excel!”
Villanueva, an International culinary veteran, served in the Army as a general’s personal chef and has toured in over 40 countries, so he brings some diverse flavor and expertise to the table.
“Better food means better functioning for your body, and that’s why I like for my students to always offer healthy alternatives,” Villanueva said. One of the ways he achieves this is to offer an array of healthier dressing options rather than just ranch.
One of his favorite alternative options is quite simple.
“You have to have your olive oils! We like to use extra virgin for our dressings because of its robust flavor, and then we’ll use a virgin one for the actual cooking,” he said.
Villanueva uses olive oils because he says it’s a healthy alternative to other cooking oils. And he’s right, olives contain unsaturated fatty acids, which lower your cholesterol and keep your heart happy.
“I don’t use butter with vegetables at all. I like to promote healthier low fat options. I never fry any foods either. Fried foods make you sluggish,” he said.
However, when it comes to the benefits of a good diet, it seems that college students sometimes simply don’t know any better.
“People typically lack the knowledge to a good and healthy diet,” said Kristy Urbick, director of intramurals at Del Mar and also a physical education instructor.
“When I teach the students I want to give them tools and lessons that they can actually apply. I want to help them connect with the material that is being taught.”
Urbick, who played college basketball while pursuing degrees in physical education, knows a thing or two about fitness and diet. She recommends that students get into the habit of “meal-prepping” for themselves, and not going out to eat so frequently.
“It’s really this culture of, ‘Let’s just go out and eat’ that’s prevalent. You know, people are out there eating out for breakfast, lunch and dinner! That’s too much unhealthy intake that just makes you feel down and out of it.”
Urbick said she’ll go to the grocery store on Sundays to get ingredients for her meal prep. She likes to pick up fresh vegetables, whole grain pastas and meats such as chicken and turkey in place of heavy red meats.
“I made a turkey hash the other day with sweet potatoes and some sautéed vegetables,” Urbick said. “It’s tasty, nutritious, it holds you up, and it’s super easy!”
In addition to diet, Urbick also emphasized a consistent exercise routine.
“Get in your 10,000 steps a day and record your physical activity,” she said. “If you don’t like a certain activity or sport, find something fun; and that’s the biggest thing — you’ve got to have fun! If you enjoy something then you’ll be doing it consistently. And if you’re consistent, you’ll succeed. So get out the house, and be successful!”