College — the land of new frontiers — whether it’s pulling your first all-nighter, getting drunk at the annual “bike race,” or studying your heart out for that A on the chemistry final; you will have many new lifestyle changes. Along with those is what you eat. Food is your fuel to give you sufficient energy to study and make in the day-by-day grind of academia.
Many of our food choices are questionable during our college years, and after graduating and shedding some of my pizza and beer pounds myself, I know how unhealthy college dining can be. Here are some of the gross food choices that are only acceptable in college.
- Ramen Noodles
Every freshman thinks they are going save a lot of money but avoiding eating out and vows to adopt a ramen every night diet. This lasts until about Labor Day, and then the student never wants to see 13 cent packets of noodles again in their life.
There are many ways you can get creative with your Ramen and spice up the noodle dish. Crack an egg in the soup, stir, allow it to cook for a few minutes, and you have instant egg drop soup. Add fresh or frozen vegetables to the noodle concoction and you will have a vegan or vegetarian lover’s Ramen. Or you can make the Ramen Noodles, without flavor packet, and add chili and cheese to the top to have chili-mac-Ramen.
The flavor packets are the most dangerous parts of Ramen containing an average 1,820 mg of sodium, more than half of your daily sodium recommendation. Find out some fresh renditions on Ramen here: https://www.buzzfeed.com/ariellecalderon/27-better-ways-to-eat-ramen?utm_term=.kkJVYeNrgM#.hs7mrgyw74
- Vending Machine Food
I get it, you’re at the library in the middle of a midnight study session with your three best friends. You are starving but don’t want to run to your dorm and most of the restaurants in your college town are closing their doors. You take a break from your history notes and buy a Snickers, Cheez-Its, and a Coke.
This isn’t the worst food choice in the world, but it sure isn’t healthy, and when you have dozens of these post-midnight vending machines grabs you will start to wonder why it’s not called the Freshman 30. When you add late-night binge watching of your favorite Netflix shows combined with junk food it becomes a personal epidemic. Try to add fresh fruit such as apples, oranges, or my personal favorite the grapefruit to you study snacking.
Yes, I know I will get some hate from this one. Easy-Mac is delicious, and super easy to make (hence the name) but you can’t argue that Easy-Mac is actual food. It is processed, dry powder, added to water, and noodles in a concoction that ends in cheesy goodness, but it is full of vague ingredients such as “natural flavor” and dyes such as yellow 5 and yellow 6.
Easy-Mac is delightfully cheesy and I’m saying never eat it again. I’m just recommending that next time you’re broke college self decides to nuke a bowl of easy mac eat some fresh veggies and hummus dip on the side. Try to make it a part of your meal and not by itself.
- Frozen Pizza
I think I might die if I eat another cheap frozen pizza. Okay, I won’t die; but the taste of cardboard crust, flavorless sauce, and bland cheese educes a laryngeal spasm. I’m not talking upper tier pizza’s like DiGiorno or Freschetta. I’m speaking of local grocery store frozen pizzas with the name of the supermarket on the front and are always on sale for an absurdly low price. As college kids, we can’t pass up a good deal, we are penny pinching every time we go to the market.
The worst thing able horrible frozen pizza is not just the high calories, trans fat, and msgs: it’s the amount consumed. College students aren’t known for their self-control, whether it’s stress-eating the night before that last-minute class presentation or drunkenly gobbling up a frozen pizza at 2 a.m. while watching Stranger Things; we often eat too much pizza at once. Did you know a serving size of DiGiorno pizza is one slice? Frozen pizza is an easy snack, and an easier way to gain five pounds. Plus, we all know delivery is always better.
- Microwave Popcorn
Ah, microwave popcorn, the snack that your roommate will want to kill you for preparing because it’s smell lasts for centuries. Microwave popcorn is the ultimate lazy college snack. Pop it in and you have a movie snack that vaguely resembles real food. You can munch on it for the entire film and your hunger still won’t subside. It is a fun way to pretend that we have money and can afford to go see the latest movie at the cinema. However, we all know that we are broke and are just scraping by with off brand kettle-corn.
The bag itself has been known to be unhealthy. The bag that most microwave popcorn varieties come in is lined with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). This chemical is the toxic ingredient found in teflon pots and pans. Trace amounts of PFOA can enter our body and stay there for quite some time. The popcorn itself usually contains butter, trans-fat, and sodium.
Instead of buying microwave popcorn, make it yourself. It is much healthier and tastes fresh. Here is the recipe.
- In a popcorn popper or on your stovetop in a heavy pan, melt 2 tsp of coconut oil.
- Add popcorn and cover and pop. If using the stovetop, be sure to continuously move the pan on the burner so that the popcorn doesn’t burn.
- Once popcorn is popped, remove from heat and drizzle on 1-2 tsp of melted butter and 2 tbsp of the homemade salted caramel.
- Mix well and add additional salt if needed.
- Fast Food Cheeseburgers
You don’t have to be Harold and Kumar to get late-night cravings. Whether your poison is the Whopper, Big Mac, or Baconator, your cure to the munchies is often a frozen patty fried or grilled to order. Slap on some ketchup and pickles and you have a premature heart attack waiting to happen.
I’m not saying never have a burger and fries. It often is the best meal at a football game or at the local tavern. Just don’t become a creature of habit and rely on the sugary sodas, salty fries, and grilled triple stacked burgers at your local fast-foodie hangout.
- Dining Hall Food
The dining hall. The place where you congregated with other freshies during welcome week desperately trying to make friends, and are paranoid when you have to get a try alone. Once you get into the swing of college the dining hall becomes another equal peril; the home of fraudulent food. I remember my first week of classes, juniors and seniors protested the quad for their personal food rights. They handed out dietary pamphlets and asked us to sign petitions to better the campus food. We were just freshman, I was happy with the questionable spaghetti and flavorless rolls.
Dining hall food is high in preservatives, cholesterol, and cheap fat/sugars. It is meant to fill you up on a limited budget. At most universities dining halls are set up in buffet atmospheres where students help themselves to seconds and thirds on nachos and chocolate desserts. Once again, it is not just the unhealthy ingredients it is the daily mass consumption that sends students into the nutrition danger zone.
There is a recurring rumor at most colleges, we had it at mine, and you probably had it at yours, that the dining hall food contained added laxatives. The rumor is “laxatives are added so to reduce the chances of food poisoning by limiting the length of time that the food is in the body.” The legend fails to question why a University would take the unnecessary legal risk of dosing all the students. While the rumor is laughable at best, it still circulates each year with new hopeless dining hall patrons.
Overall, college is a great time to be alive, but it’s not the best on our stomachs. Students are at constant odds with the prices of restaurant food, the time and energy it takes to cook, and the perils of campus dining. From personal experience, I suggest eating a light lunch consisting of a healthy sandwich, fruit, water and a slightly larger dinner of home cooked food such as your favorite pasta bake or finding fun new recipes online for tasty studying treats.
Featured Image via Zhao Flicker