Tessa Dufresne

Tessa Dufresne

Photo courtesy of: Tessa Dufresne

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'Cat Counsel: Hasta la vista, Freshman 15

Please excuse me while I obsess over nutrition.

Too often we focus on the abundance of deliciously fatty foods we want without thinking about what our body needs. The sight of endless food in Shively and Boyd stimulates our appetite. Plus, everyone else is mindlessly eating junk. Why not similarly indulge?

I understand, probably better than the next guy, that a plate of carbs and heaping bowl of cookie dough ice cream equals heaven. But studies show that the foods you eat affect your health, mood, energy, memory and concentration. Your body and brain need the proper nutrition to function best.

You know that being happy, energetic and fully focused is the best way to live, so why not help yourself in creating those conditions? Follow these guidelines to help start you on the path to healthy dining hall eats and a life that is sweet.

Know your stomach.
Eat slowly and until you are satisfied, not until you are stuffed, no matter how delicious it tastes. Being uncomfortably full is never worth it. Remember, it is the dining hall. Chances are high they will serve that exact same meal at least 20 more times before year's end.

Portion size is key. Knowing the proper portions will help you fill your stomach with the right amount. In June 2011, the United States Department of Agriculture introduced MyPlate, which replaced the famous food pyramid that existed since 1992. The new guide is designed to aid Americans in creating a balanced diet.

Dr. Cassy Richmond told MSN the normal stomach capacity is about the size of an average human fist, but can expand up to three times its size to accommodate for large meals. When we consistently eat beyond the appropriate amount, our stomachs stretch, training them to feel empty until they receive that large amount, resulting in constant overeating and weight gain.

Fresh comes first.
Hit the salad bar before going through the entrée line and fill up your plate with fresh fruit and vegetables, leaving less room for unhealthy items. According to MyPlate, half your plate should be fruits and vegetables. OHIO's Culinary Services purchases much of its produce from the local Chesterhill Produce Auction, providing students with good quality food while helping the local economy.

Get creative with your condiments by skipping that creamy, high-fat dressing and opting for juicy or flavorful choices to cover your salad, such as mandarin oranges, black beans, guacamole or salsa. If you can't do without salad dressing, mix olive oil, a healthy source of monounsaturated fats, with red wine or balsamic vinegar to create your own vinaigrette.

Complete your meal with a piece of protein-laden grilled chicken and a whole grain, such as brown rice or whole wheat bread. I love putting fruits in my water, helping meet my daily requirement while adding excitement to a sometimes-boring beverage. My favorite additions are grapes and raspberries. Don't forget that drinking water is essential for healthy living.

Think outside the box.
Don't fall lame to the predecided menu. You have a huge selection of foods at your disposal, so take advantage of it. Mix sautéed vegetables from the Mexican station with beans and spinach from the salad bar and pile it all into a pita or whole grain tortilla. Or mix the many available fruits to make a fruit salad and couple it with low-fat yogurt and granola.

Last, reward yourself. Healthy eating is fun and satisfying, don't stress yourself about it or feel guilty for giving into a craving for something unhealthy. "Skip the fast food line most days, but occasionally treat yourself to fries or a grilled cheese, just not every day," said Francie Astrom, OHIO's WellWorks nutrition counselor.

Allow yourself to splurge at least once a week to prevent a binging session. Save that slice of divine Shively pizza and the splendid Shookie for your Friday free-day. It will give you something to work toward all week.

Because the dining halls offer a vast variety of foods to meet the desires of the University's diverse population, healthy options are available, you just have to consciously choose them. Go forth and dig in, my friends.