Stephanie | Tate

Let’s be painfully honest here college is a field day for unhealthy eating. Many of us have fallen victim to the enticing nature of the Cookout tray, especially at two in the morning.  

Something about the mere opportunity to get an entrée, two sides, and a drink all for less than five dollars has NC State students falling down the infamous Cookout hill.  Gumby’s Pizza, known around campus for their Pokey Sticks, is another well-known hot spot for NC State students.

Between the fried food and the excessive amount of grease in the daily diets of many students on campus, it is difficult to see how we can break these habits. So how can we ensure that the food we’re feeding our bodies is helping us remain at our best? One way that has helped students on campus save money and ensure that they are eating healthy is to cook for themselves.  If cooking is your thing, or even if it isn’t, here are a few tips to help you cook healthier.

First, cooking is not just for students in apartments. Did you know that if you live in a residence hall, you can rent pots and pans from your designated 24 hour desk? So try to take advantage of that kitchen in your residence hall, you won’t regret it. Second, here’s a dirty little secret: cooking healthy isn’t boring, nor is it nasty.  Cooking healthy can be just as delicious if not more delicious than eating those double stuffed Oreos for dinner.

The first step to cooking healthy is taking into account food groups. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, it is essential that you keep certain food groups in your daily diet. When cooking, make sure to incorporate fruits, vegetables, protein, grains and dairy.  According  their website the daily recommended amount of each food group for the average college student are as follows: fruits- two cups, vegetables- two and a half cups for women and three cups for men, grains- six ounce equivalent for females and an eight ounce equivalent for males, proteins- five and a half ounce equivalent for women and six and a half ounce equivalent for men, and lastly men and women both need three cups of dairy. It is essential that you take these food groups into consideration when cooking.

The next step to cooking healthy is replacing ingredients with healthier options. Try replacing your normal ingredients with healthier options. When making pasta, a common favorite, try to replace the normal noodles with some whole grain ones. Replace white bread with wheat bread and replace those macaroni noodles with quinoa.  And no, it won’t hurt to replace that butter with low-fat margarine.
Cooking meats in a manner that is healthy can be super simple if you follow a few steps. Make sure to clean your poultry thoroughly. The American Heart Association suggests the use of lean meats more than red meats. However, if red meat really is your thing, try to make sure that you are choosing the leaner parts of the meat. This also applies to seafood. Some seafood options have higher cholesterol counts than others, so be mindful of that when cooking. Never forget that proteins are not just found in meats, but in other products like beans and peanut butter. So for those of us who don’t indulge in meats, you have other options for proteins.
Spices add variety to life and to our taste buds, but they can sometimes come with a cost. So how do we decipher which spices to use and how to use them in moderation? According to the American Heart Association there are a lot of spices that can be both delicious and healthy.  Basil leaves, cumin, curry powder and other spices add flavor to meals without filling it with salt.
Cooking healthy meals on your own can not only save you time but prevent you from falling victim to the dangerous Cookout hill and all of the issues accompanied with eating unhealthily.  Take advantage of other resources provided in this issue and try to remain healthy and strong. If the strength of the pack is the wolf, then all of the wolves need to be at their strongest. Happy cooking!

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