Fuel Your Body for Success
by Peter Lehmuller, Ed.D., Dean of Johnson & Wales University’s College of Culinary Arts
Today, the connection between diet and health has become a part of our everyday conversation. You’ve probably heard of the “freshman fifteen”, a reference to the weight gain college students experience when living away from home for the first time. While it’s fun to eat whatever you want whenever you want, there are unfortunate consequences to poor eating habits. Making consistently bad food choices can lead not just to weight gain, but also to trouble concentrating, increased irritability, and eating even more. US News & World Report recently published an article about foods that cause unproductivity at work. These foods can also affect students! Among the big culprits are fried foods, coffee, candy bars, and vending machine snacks. A quick walk around my campus shows lots of opportunity for students to fall into the poor diet trap.
So what are we to do about it? First, inform yourself about the effects of food on your mind and body. Many colleges provide information on their website about the connection between diet and health. The USDA offers information at www.choosemyplate.gov. At Johnson & Wales University’s Charlotte Campus, students access “Balanced U” electronic newsletters, which inform them of ways to maintain a healthy weight and ways to eat in order to improve their performance. This has always been of interest to student athletes, but now extends to the entire student population.
Once you have the knowledge, you’ve got to put it into action. Ask about student dining programs at colleges you visit. When you start college, look around before you fill your tray. Are you selecting freshly prepared food with high nutritious value? Or are you eating highly processed foods, likely to be high in sugar, salt, or fat and sometimes all three! Are you choosing a side salad instead of fries? (Make sure you don’t drown in it in dressing.) Eating healthy is fairly simple in concept, but sometimes difficult to practice because of the abundance of food choices in the USA.
Soon you will be on your own, whether at college or living independently. Only you can decide how, what, and when you eat. That is a much bigger responsibility than it might seem at first. The foods you choose have a huge impact on your ability to function well. Choose healthy foods, and your GPA and waistline will thank you!
Peter Lehmuller, Ed.D., Dean of Johnson & Wales University’s College of Culinary Arts