Managing stress, one bite at a time
by Zoey Duncan
Have exams and expenses got you on edge? Your eating habits on stress-filled days can compromise your health and make it tougher to study. During stressful times in our lives, we tend to make poorer nutrition decisions, said Lynne Lafave, assistant professor in the department of physical education and recreation.
“When we’re tired, we tend to choose high fat, high sugar, higher salt food,” she said, noting that the trend is consistent throughout all people, not just stressed-out students.
There are plenty of fast food options on campus, and Lafave pointed out that, like most convenience food, many of the options on campus tend to be higher in fat, sugar and salt than food you bring from home.
Health Canada recommends that we ingest 1,500 mg of sodium per day, and no more than 2,300 mg. According to a 2004 Statistics Canada survey, Canadians consume about 3,092 mg of sodium every day. Health Canada states that, “Too much [sodium] may lead to high blood pressure, a major risk factor for stroke, heart disease and kidney disease.”
It’s easy to go over the recommended amount: Edo’s curry chicken bowl alone contains 1,510 mg, and 60 ml of their teriyaki sauce is another 1,230 mg of sodium, according to the nutritional information available on their website. At Dairy Queen, regular-sized fries contain 640 mg of sodium and their grilled chicken salad contains 890 mg, according to their nutritional information.
As for calories, Health Canada recommends men aged 19-30 consume 2,500-3,000 calories per day, depending on their level of activity and women aged 19-30 should consume 1,900-2,300 calories per day. That curry chicken bowl contains 500 calories, while the DQ fries have 310 calories and the salad has just 280 calories.
The problem with a higher intake of fat, sugar and salt is that it results in gained weight, less energy and a generally bad feeling, Lafave said. And on the other side of the spectrum, people who are cutting calories to lose weight tend to be cold, get sick and have trouble concentrating.
Lafave acknowledged that it’s easy to order a plate of fries or a slice of pizza in Wyckham, especially for the many students who find themselves exhausted and who don’t bring food from home to eat at school. But those foods can take a toll on your body.
“Food purchased and prepared at home is always going to be higher in nutritional value,” she said.
She emphasized the importance of getting your recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables; that’s seven to eight for women and eight to 10 for men. Not only are the vitamins and minerals contained within important, but the high amount of fibre has a “high satiation factor” that will keep you fuller for longer than other snacks.
Lafave said she sees plenty of convenience foods in the hands of students around the end of the semester. In order to break the habit of indulgent snacks, she said it’s important to plan ahead.
“One trick at the grocery store is to stay on the outside of the store,” she said. Fresh produce, baked goods, dairy and meat are on the perimeter of the store, which makes it easy to circumvent the processed, packaged foods in the aisles.
Once you’ve got your healthy bounty, make things easier on yourself by packing up small servings of vegetables to take to school. Lafave said that fruit and vegetables would keep well in a backpack for a day.
If a change is on the horizon for you, Lafave recommends starting slow.
“Small changes are palatable changes,” she said in regards to cutting down on fat, sugar and salt. Try identifying five not-so-good things you eat in a week, she said, and cut one out every day.
“By reducing it slowly you can adapt.”