Reporter: Courtney Williams
It’s Sunday morning and you’ve had a rough weekend. Your head is aching, you have bruises you don’t remember receiving, and you’re asking your roommates “Would it really be that odd to tape a garbage can to my torso all day?” It’s better than throwing up elsewhere, right?
You hear someone say “McDonalds?” and suddenly the whole house has woken up and you’re counting your change to see if you have enough for an extra value meal.
The thought of going to the grocery store doesn’t even cross your mind – you don’t have the time, determination, or cash flow to warrant such a thought.
So you spend another few dollars on fast food and pledge to treat your body better.
Until next weekend, that is.
Budget constraints prevent many post-secondary students from eating properly. It seems too easy to justify – fruits and vegetables are so expensive! Fast food is quick, easy and cheap!
Let’s look at it logically. For about $20, one could buy four whopper combo meals from Burger King.
Or one large pepperoni pizza and an order of breadsticks from Domino’s. These all seem like great deals – filling, calorie packed meals for under $20 that are ready when you want them.
However, for the same cost, a student could also buy the following: One pound of lean ground beef, one pound of chicken legs, one pound of green beans, two cans of Classico pasta/alfredo sauce, one bunch of broccoli, a loaf of D’italiano bread, a 2.5 litre jug of orange juice, a 10 pound bag of Famer’s Market carrots, two litres of milk and a carton of eggs. (Total cost: $20.35.)
All prices taken from local No Frills and Loblaw’s Superstore flyers.)
“I probably eat fast food at least five times a week,” said first-year small business entrepreneurship student Kayla Tanzos.
“I don’t really think about it – three or four dollars here and there doesn’t seem like much, but I can see how it adds up eventually,” she added.
Registered holistic nutritionist Sylvia Emmorey is the campus nutritionist for DC/UOIT.
Emmorey said students in college don’t factor time to make healthy meals into their already busy schedules and as a result, tend to be more tempted to eat on the fly.
“Students are not used to time management when they reach college with classes at all different times of the day,” she said.
“They quite often will schedule in their school work and classes, gym time, social time…but they don’t often account for meal preparation time.
It becomes easy to just pick something up,” she said.
Emmorey added that students living away from home for the first time can benefit from eating healthy foods rather than fast food in more ways than they might realize.
“A lot of students don’t realize that eating well does affect their learning skills, and the number one thing, I think, is their energy levels.
After making only a few changes, a lot of the clients that I see say they have increased energy and are sleeping much better.
Healthy eating affects your concentration as well, and your digestion. As you start to eat fast food on a regular basis it can make you very uncomfortable,” she said.
Emmorey went on to list side effects of unhealthy eating that students are often not aware of.
“What most college students don’t realize is that eating badly affects their stress levels as well,” she said. “Healthy eating can decrease stress because your body is getting the proper nutrients it needs.”
Eating a lot of junk food is not only unhealthy, but it blocks the absorption of healthy vitamins and minerals into your system. It affects stress, sleep, weight, anxiety and depression,” she said. Emmorey added any students who may be having issues with healthy eating or have questions about nutrition should schedule an appointment with her at the Campus Health Centre.
Appointments with the campus nutritionist are covered through the Student Insurance Plan in place here at DC/UOIT.
“Set small, achievable goals and get support. It’s so important,” she said.
A study conducted by the U.S. Centre for Disease Control in 2007 found that fewer than 1 in 10 teens are consuming the recommended daily values of fruits and vegetables, and a 2004 study conducted by Harvard concluded that 30 per cent of teens eat four to six meals a week at fast food restaurants.
So it’s no surprise that when those teenagers come to college, their eating habits don’t drastically improve at the thought of having to buy their own groceries, cook their own meals, and take care of their own health.
So, the next time you decide you could really go for an eight piece chicken meal from KFC complete with 4 preservative-packed biscuits and two completely edible looking sides, think again.
Consider the healthy and overly beneficial groceries you could purchase just as easily – often for cheaper than the anticipated fast-food calorie punch you were considering instead.
As newly independent people starting out in the big, scary world, taking care of your health is the first step to becoming a responsible adult, and the best thing you could do for your body and your health in the weeks, months, and years to come.
The habits we fall into now will become habits for the rest of your life – so pick up an apple and turn your back on that Baconator next time you have the chance.
Your body, health and future will thank you.