Caffeine. Alcohol.


Late-night pizza.

Many college students find that at least one of these things becomes a fixture in their lives. Cramming for tests, going to parties and socializing over pizza are fairly regular activities which experts say may affect one's health. However, students interested in improving their health in the new year may want to rethink their habits.

"I believe in eating healthy, but I also believe you should eat what you want and be happy," says Eugene Rosenthall, an exercise and sports sciences senior. "I try to eat healthy, but I don't do very well. I drink a lot of coffee, about eight cups a day. I do go to Dirtbag's about twice a week. I exercise about once a week."

Students need to make a commitment to eating on a structured schedule and exercising rigorously, says Linda Houtkooper, University of Arizona associate specialist in nutritional science.

"The chaos level in life goes up (when people enter college). The college life-style does not support rest because of roommates and dorms, where people stay up late," she says.

Keeping a regular daily schedule should help students control their eating and exercising habits, Houtkooper says. Students should make eating three to four times a day a habit, because their energy levels will be higher with a food intake spread over the day.

"They don't think they have time, but (eating regularly) may make them more efficient," Houtkooper says.

Marketing senior Caroline Weiss says she eats pretty well, but often fails to eat well-balanced meals.

"I don't have time, as a college student, to make well-balanced meals, but I do use the (Student Recreation Center) a lot," she says.

What students eat, not just when, is also important. The U.S. Department of Agriculture publishes a food pyramid, which identifies how much of which major food groups people should eat.

At the top of the pyramid are foods high in fat or those with added sugar, followed by high-protein foods (like red meat and milk), followed by fruits and vegetables and then carbohydrates. People should eat more servings of the items near the bottom, such as carbohydrates, and less of those on top, such as high-fat foods, Houtkooper says.

Most college students eat with the pyramid inverted, eating more high-fat foods and less of other items, she says.

Stephen Campodonico, an exercise and sports sciences senior, says he doesn't eat too much because he is poor but that his eating habits are pretty close to what they should be.

"I try to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, and I don't usually eat a whole lot of dessert-type stuff," Campodonico says.

Money is an issue for many students, Houtkooper says, but students can generally get around this with better planning.

Purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables can become expensive, but Houtkooper says students can buy them frozen or canned, as well as fresh items that are in season to keep costs down.

Kathlyn Smiley,


Health Service nutrition coordinator, says she thinks most students make decent food choices but tend to feel guilty when they eat bad foods. Students, especially women, often feel they should eat less than what is typical.

The amount of fat someone should consume in a day depends on the person's level of activity, size and metabolism, Smiley says. Women require at least 40 grams of fat per day, she says, while men should take in anywhere from 60 to 100 grams of fat.

The fat contents of some common foods: a can of corn contains one gram of fat while a package of an average brand of microwave popcorn contains about 11 grams of fat; a vending machine bag of peanut M & Ms contains about 24 grams of fat; two tablespoons of peanut butter have 17 grams of fat; and one can of Spaghetti-Os has two grams of fat.

The problem with alcohol is that it contains empty calories calories without any nutritional value, Smiley says. In addition, the liver metabolizes alcohol directly into fat, she says.

Students who are

interested in

their health need to commit to getting enough sleep, Smiley says. They should try to plan out the work they need to do at night, rather than procrastinate, Smiley says.

Christopher Houk says he usually sleeps about six hours a night and takes a nap during the day. Houk, a political science junior, says sometimes the naps are longer than his sleep at night and that he usually catches up on weekends.

Naps are useful when students don't get enough sleep at night, says Rachel Manber, a sleep researcher in the psychiatry department who studies sleeping patterns. However, it's more beneficial if students sleep full nights instead of napping during the day, she says.

The amount of sleep necessary varies from person to person, but Manber says she asks the people who participate in her studies to sleep at least seven and a half hours a night.

Most students Manber researched reported lack of concentration and more negative and anxious moods when they were sleep-deprived. Manber says some mid

students disregard sleep as a waste of time.

In addition, students should try to keep their nightly sleeping patterns consistent, even on weekends, she says.

Houtkooper says sporadic sleeping schedules mean students probably ingest more caffeine than usual. Moderate caffeine intake (two to three cups a day) is OK, Houtkooper says, but people who drink more than a moderate amount of caffeine may experience jitters. Drinking caffeine often leads to water loss in the body, and a lot of people may walk around mildly dehydrated without realizing it, Houtkooper says. Students should try to drink more water or eat fresh fruits and vegetables, which contain a lot of water, to prevent dehydration problems.

It takes some planning ahead for students to change their health habits, but it may make a difference in the way they feel in the new year.

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