When the quarantining for COVID-19 in the United States began, most gyms and places to acquire healthy eating options were forced to shut down, and most healthy habits may have been forced to take a back seat. Now, as Texas Tech reopens, students are taking advantage of the renewed options to get back into their healthy routines.
“It’s definitely going to take an active and conscious effort to get back into those healthy eating habits,” Mindy Diller, registered dietitian at Hospitality Services, said. “It will be easier for those who already were maintaining a steady and healthy course to get back into their routines. Those who are just starting out will have a harder time, but it isn’t impossible.’’
Lauretta Pierre, a senior biochemistry major from the Caribbean, said the quarantine was a great opportunity to start eating healthier.
“The first few months of quarantine was really an eye-opener for me,” Pierre said. “I started to eat more spinach, green peppers, turmeric and ginger.’ “I started to eat more fish too, like salmon and tuna for the Omega Fatty Acid they possess.”
Another step in Pierre's new fitness journey was to watch the grains she ate daily, she said.
“I also ate whole grain, wheat and dried food as they are a healthier option,” she said.
Students can take up stress-eating as a form of coping with the difficulties that college can bring, Diller said.
“It’s common knowledge that college can be a very trying time for young adults, and when you couple it with all the COVID-19 drama, focusing on healthy eating can go out the window,” she said. “When people are stressed, they can either eat way too much or not eat at all, neither of which is very healthy for anyone.”
To combat this, Diller said it is important to stay mindful of what students are putting into their bodies and how much of it they are consuming.
“A lot of times, when a student is stressed, their blood sugar levels can increase,” Diller said. “This is because students will turn to sugary foods and foods high in sodium to cope with stress. They can also turn to alcohol, which is not good for your body. This is why it’s extremely important students are aware of what they’re consuming.”
Another problem students face is struggling to keep the weight on or off, Diller said.
“Weight loss or gain can go hand in hand with stress,” she said. “They might be eating too much or not enough, and it’s affecting their body physically as well as internally. This can also be a problem because students won’t cook as often, or they won’t prioritize exercise as much as they should."
Donovan Peters, a freshman sports management major from Albuquerque, New Mexico, said both working out and eating right has been a major focal point for him since the COVID-19 quarantine.
“I started to be more conscious of my diet and put more work into exercising since I had a lot of time on my hands,” Peters said.
Peters also has been trying to monitor what food he buys to stay on track with his regiment, he said.
“I am trying to eat healthy even though it’s hard on campus,” he said. “I don’t buy excess and a lot of super unhealthy snacks when I go grocery shopping. I also try to eat things, like salad and sandwiches, on campus often.”
Another problem most college students face is trying to save money by buying cheaper food options, Diller said. The cheaper the food is, the unhealthier it typically is.
“Most college students are forced to move their money around and prioritize,” she said. “A lot of the time, students are willing to sacrifice the quality of food and buy cheaper options. This can be fixed by attempting to cook most of the food you consume.”
Nikhila Ratakonda, a master’s student in computer science from Andhra Pradesh, India, said she has been working on her diet by cooking a lot of what she eats.
“The coronavirus quarantine actually affected me in a really positive way,” Ratakonda said. “I started intermittent fasting in an 8 to 16-hour form, and in that time, I’ve been learning how to eat correctly. I also do my best to home-cook as often as possible, and it’s really been helping me stay on track.”
The most important thing a student can do to maintain a healthy lifestyle is to make it a habit, Diller said.
“You really just need to figure out how to balance your nutrition and stick with it,” Diller said. “Make sure you incorporate fruits and vegetables every day as well as factoring lean protein and whole wheat grains and then just keep at it. Eventually, it’ll just become a part of your everyday life, and you’ll be on your way to a healthier lifestyle.”