Food Fight

Survey finds college students struggling to maintain healthy diet

The Spectrum

A recent UB survey found one third of students are overweight. It revealed almost every student needs to improve his or her daily intake of fruits and vegetables to five or more times per day, according to Sherri Darrow, the director of Student Health and Wellness.

Some students count calories and prepare balanced meals, while others fulfill the stereotypical college student diet of Ramen and Easy Mac. Several UB students shared their eating habits with The Spectrum.

After watching Food, Inc., a 2008 documentary exposing American corporate farming, Samantha Schustek became a vegetarian.

"I didn't know how [poorly] the animals were treated," said Schustek, a senior speech and hearing science major. "The chickens were chemically engineered to have bigger breasts and thighs because that's what's in high demand ... I wanted to throw up."

Schustek follows health and fitness accounts on Instagram and finds many recipes from their posts.

Michael Bieber, a senior communication major, has yet to find a way to maintain a healthy diet at school.

His "stellar" macaroni and cheese, grilled cheese and Ramen soup are his specialties in the kitchen, he said.

Bieber lives off his parents' budget when he's in Buffalo because he doesn't work while he studies. When he's at home, there's always a meal on the table. At school, though, he has $100 a week.

"I wake up at 12 p.m. and make oatmeal or have a bowl of cereal," Bieber said. "Then for lunch I have Johnny C's or Korean Express if I'm on campus, and if I'm home I have McDonald's or Wendy's. For dinner, I either have Chinese delivered or I pick up dinner from Kung Food on Main St. When I'm drunk later on in the night, I get UHots or Domino's."

Though UB's survey, which was conducted in the spring 2013, shows studentsneed to increase their daily intake of fruits and vegetables, Schustek eats vegetables every day and has a variety of methods to prepare them.

"Kale chips are really easy to make," she said. "You put kale in the oven with a little bit of salt and olive oil and bake it for 12 minutes. It's a good substitute for chips because they have a crunchy consistency."

She fills up on fish, veggie burgers, tofu or Tempeh with a side of vegetables for dinner. She urges students to remember to eat a big breakfast and suggests a meal like two eggs, a Chobani yogurt and a piece of toast.

When cooking, Schustek likes to "rely on the flavor of the vegetables" and doesn't use much seasoning. Here and there, however, she will add a tablespoon of dressing or hot sauce for some tang.

"I don't even crave meat anymore - I actually feel healthier without it," Schustek said. "And now I only drink water or seltzer during the week and use orange juice or diet soda as a [chaser for alcohol] during the weekends."

Buying more produce has made Schustek's weekly shopping trips more expensive, but the good health is worth it to her.

Darrow believes there are many individual, community and social factors that influence a student's ability to maintain a balanced and healthy lifestyle. Money and time are two major factors.

"For example, eating on the run is a common situation, which can be correlated with 'eating without thinking' and can lead to poor nutrition and less satisfaction with what we eat," Darrow said.

In Bieber's case, being away from home has factored into his poor diet. He looks forward to graduating and believes then he will have a consistent, healthy lifestyle. For now, he's enjoying eating comfort foods for every meal of the day.

Janice Cochran, a nutritionist and dietician at UB, believes the habits students develop in college could stay with them for much longer.

"College is an ideal time to develop some good eating habits that can help prevent development of chronic disease later in life," Cochran said.

Eating regularly, including plenty of fruits and vegetables and not overloading on too much sugar and low-nutrient food, can help students stay on track emotionally and academically, according to Cochran.