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Transition to campus food influences students’ health habits

By Abby Kelly, For The Miami Student

Coming to college and being independent means students are obligated to make decisions constantly. There is one decision that has to be made multiple times a day: what to eat.

Gretchen Matuzak, director of the didactic program in dietetics, believes that coming to college always has an impact on a student's diet.

"The main change for students when they leave home is that they are responsible for their own food choices," Matuzak said. "They no longer have a meal that is prepared for them at home by a parent."

Matuzak noticed that not only are many students on their own for meals when they come to college, but students are also juggling classes, studying and participating in extracurricular activities. Students' busy schedules make eating healthy less of a priority.

First-year Olivia Prosser has just begun to learn how to manage school and live on her own. She said she has noticed her eating habits have changed during her first few months at Miami.

"It is very tempting to eat the quick, fried food options," Prosser said. "I have to be more conscious about what I eat simply because my meals are no longer centered around my whole family. I am struggling to keep a balanced diet mainly because I never put thought to my eating habits before, and now I need to."

Matuzak notices the transition of going from home to school plays a role in students eating habits.

"Limited time and stress eating are two reasons students do not eat a balanced meal. Trying to get acclimated to their new surroundings and gauging how much time should be spent socializing vs. studying can influence how much and what type of foods a student selects," Matuzak said.

Therefore, Matuzak believes that because of limited time and many responsibilities, students substitute foods and drinks that they need, such as fruit or whole grains, with quicker options like Easy Mac and energy drinks.

Living on campus means that students have 24-hour access to unlimited high calories snacks like chips, cookies and candy bars with a swipe of a student ID at places like Emporium, MacCracken Market and King Café.

Senior Eric Rubeo said his eating habits have changed since moving from on campus living, and now doesn't rely on the expediency of on campus and take out food.

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"Dorm life my first two years did not lend itself to easy cooking or storage of cooking utensils. I ate out a lot at the on campus restaurants with my meal plan while living on campus," he said. "This year, I've been pretty good about cooking and preparing my meals. I pack lunches and cook purposefully large meals so I can have easy leftovers for dinner throughout the week."

Prosser likes to go to Bell Tower or Maplestreet Station, or sometimes she will eat the breakfast food or snacks that she keeps in her room.

However, she is constantly trying to be conscious about what she eats by including fruit or a salad as one of her daily meals.

Even though on campus students are always taking the quickest option for food most times, Matuzak believes that it is even more important that college students have good eating habits and a balanced diet.

"Your body will have the fuel necessary to be successful in the classroom, and enjoy your extracurricular activities," she said.

Matuzak understands that developing good eating habits is a struggle in college, but they are also critical for students' success.

"Make a schedule and have a plan just like you do for your classes," she said. "All foods can fit into your eating plan in moderation."