Every person, young and old, has a coping mechanism for stress and anxiety. A frequently unknown fact that many students and others are coming to understand is the vast connection between physical and mental health. If one falls, so will the other. Whether it be a gaining of weight, and a plummet of mental health due to confidence, or vice versa, these aspects of the umbrella term “health” are synchronous. Over the course of the coronavirus quarantine, and as the world is returning to “normal life,” many people have resorted to the usage of exercise as a coping mechanism. Whether it be a small jog around the neighborhood or an ab workout routine on your bedroom floor, the smallest act of exercise is seeming to help people feel better.
“Exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood by improving self-esteem and cognitive function,” said Sharma, A., Madaan, V., Petty F.D., National Institute of Health.
If you are physically fit, then you are mentally fit. Exercise for many is not only a mental stress release, but it is also a serotonin release. The feeling of self-improvement and the confidence boost that follows carries on not only throughout the course of the workout, but even into your day following the activity.
“Exercise is absolutely a stress relief for me. I can confidently say that it saves my life to the point that I can’t go a day without it. I work out hard in the morning, so it starts my day right and it carries throughout all my other tasks,” said Adam Wosahla, Junior, Christopher Newport University Men’s Track and Field.
Whether you’re a college athlete like Adam or not, the benefits are easily understandable. As previously stated, many people are discovering the need for physical activity. Whether or not a person began a workout regime due to necessity, or sheer boredom, the drive is there for many. And the mental ease that follows physical exercise far exceeds just the confidence boosts. It even has a positive effect on your brain’s chemical levels.
“Regular exercise increases the volume of certain brain regions—in part through better blood supply that improves neuronal health by improving the delivery of oxygen and nutrients; and through an increase in neurotrophic factors and neurohormones that support neuron signaling, growth, and connections,” said Gingell, S., Psychology Today.
Physical activity literally helps your brain do its job. Not only are you increasing the health of your psyche, but you are also improving your brain’s fundamental capabilities. Physical exercise is often the last thing people think of to aid with stress relief. Though with scientific facts and first-hand testaments, the proof is there. It is simply a matter of stepping out of your comfort zone and beginning to exercise regularly.
The greatest, and quite possibly most reassuring aspect of exercise, is there are so many outlets for it, all with different benefits. Do you need more natural, raw energy? Then start running, build endurance, and improve your cardiovascular system. If you’re lacking in size, lift some weights. If you’re lacking in flexibility, begin a yoga regime. All of these types of exercises improve many aspects of our general wellbeing. And with a better mental state, free from stress and anxiety, an individual can accomplish so much more each day.
“Exercise, and sports, in general, help me so much with stress relief, and higher energy levels. Overall, exercise improves my mood, especially when I’m working out with the team. It gives me confidence, and puts me at ease for the rest of the day,” said Anna Dean, a Sophomore at Christopher Newport University and a player of Women’s Volleyball.
Whether you work out with a team or not like Anna is up to you. If it’s a social activity that gets you up on your feet, then, by all means, make it social.
With all the outlets of physical activity possible, there seems to be little reason not to include exercise in your schedule. Some of us are still stuck in our homes. Whether you’re immuno-compromised, a student partaking in online school, or a virtual worker, exercise can liven up your day. Not everyone is going to be a complete “gym rat,” but by just starting your day with a walk around your neighborhood, you embrace many extra positive effects. From your brain to your body, to your mental headspace, exercise is an aid to these all.
No matter where you are in life, or how busy you might be or feel, just 30 minutes of exercise can make a world of difference. Go out, get a sweat in, and let the benefits speak for themselves.
30 College Meal Prep Ideas Every Student Should Try
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College is the best time to take full advantage of all the opportunities to grow into the person you want to be.
Whether taking on extra classes, joining a club, or interning in your potential career, it is the time to fully work on yourself.
These healthy college meal prep ideas will help you focus on becoming yourself without the worry of eating unhealthy or spending a lot of money on food you might forget about.
There are a variety of meals listed here that can be eaten throughout the year, and all of them made with simple ingredients.
Don’t be discouraged if you can’t make some of the recipes completely. These are made to be altered to the best of your ability!
1. Smoothie Bags
She has helped many college students realize that healthy eating is possible with just a few changes.
These smoothies are great and meal-prep friendly. Leave them in your freezer for rushed mornings and you’re set for the day!
2. Overnight Oats
Overnight oats are a popular breakfast meal prep food, and they can be very delicious.
CotterCrunch has an impressive one that is not limited to the mason jar, so small additions can make it even better if you are worried about not having a fulfilling breakfast.
I prefer it this way so I can start my day with a fruit or veggie.
3. Egg Cups
Egg cups are a simple meal idea and last for a surprisingly long time. I’ve tried various ones myself and they haven’t disappointed me at all.
It all depends on what you put into it and what toppings, if any, you add to it as well.
You can even have this with an English muffin or as a side to your overnight oats. Let Show Me The Yummy help you prep!
4. Yogurt Parfaits
Yogurt parfaits are the best breakfast, dessert, or snack. If you need something sweet but want to stay on the healthy side, this is a great option.
Gathering Dreams has a great guide to choosing your fruits and granola, and which ones pair best with each other.
Or you can get your favorite fruits and layer as you wish!
5. Vegan Hummus Sandwich
An easy way to eat healthy college meals is to prep vegan dishes.
This vegan hummus sandwich might not be an attainable college meal for everyone, but the best part about preparing your own vegan dishes is that you can put your more preferred veggies instead.
The Simple Veganista has a lot of great vegan recipes that are simple and easy to prep, even for college students.
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6. Chicken Tacos
Lunch and dinner are easier to plan for, so you don’t have to be so picky about what you would want to eat. For instance, chicken tacos are so versatile and easy to meal prep.
Tasty has a whole website on easy recipes, and many dedicated to college meal preps.
Like a couple of recipes on this list, you can make a big batch of chicken and save it to add to whatever veggies or leftovers you already have. Convenient and budget-friendly!
7. Taco Bowl
Another use for big-batch protein is making your extra protein into a taco bowl, also convenient if you don’t have tortillas or lettuce for wraps.
Since this is a recipe for a taco bowl, the ingredients are set to reflect it, but if you are using a big batch protein, you can change it to your liking or budget.
Honestly, Sweet Peas and Saffron have become my go-to because they give a lot of alternatives!
8. Sun-dried Tomato Pasta
Hopefully, cheap ramen and unseasoned spaghetti are not all you end up eating in college. You can always upgrade this dish with uncomplicated swaps like choosing a pesto sauce instead of tomato.
This sun-dried tomato pasta with spinach by Little Broken is so simple and flavorful that you will never want to eat plain pasta again!
9. Sesame Noodle Bowl
My favorite meals in college are the ones that are filling but don’t take a lot of time. This sesame noodle bowl has become a great takeout replacement.
Edamame may be hard to find, so switch it out for peas if necessary. No guilty eating with Pinch of Yum’s recipe!
10. Black Bean and Corn Salad
Every once in a while, I see a vegan recipe that I wouldn’t mind incorporating into my weekly meal plan. This straightforward, no cook meal even works as a healthy lunch in between classes.
With this black bean and roasted corn salad, there’s no ingredient that is impossible to find! Simple Veganista has blessed us again.
11. Caprese Chicken Bowl
This Caprese chicken salad bowl by Sweet Pea and Saffron is honestly the best meal I have ever prepped in college. It is so tasty that I cannot live without it.
It is also a very healthy college meal so I highly recommend it. The mozzarella is sometimes pricey if bought individually, so opt for some big packs.
I recommend prepping the night before instead of days in advance so that it is fresh. I usually swap the quinoa with lettuce or green beans, but it is amazing in every way!
12. Cilantro Lime Shrimp Lettuce Wraps
Now I know seafood can be expensive for some college students, so don’t hesitate if you need to swap these cilantro lime shrimp lettuce wraps for ground beef or chicken.
You can use the same seasoning for any protein and make it your own. Lettuce wraps are the easiest meal prep you can achieve and will be one of the freshest every time.
The Recipe Critic shows us a very simple recipe that I am ready to make every day!
13. Instant Pot Pork Carnitas
I Wash, You Dry has a great instant pot recipe for crispy pork carnitas. This is a great college meal plan recipe if you can make big batches for days to a week at a time.
Think Chipotle but without the added calories. Add this in a taco, burrito bowl or in a lettuce wrap, between buns or in a salad, and enjoy!
14. Chicken Parmesan Casserole
Whether you grew up eating casseroles or not, Thriving Home will make you appreciate their versatility and time-saving recipes.
I love it because it is easy to add extra veggies or your favorite protein and it won’t ruin the dish.
Try to have a fresh addition to it, whether a side salad or some toppings like avocado or cheese to upgrade it after reheating. Casseroles are the ultimate college meal prep staple!
15. Spinach and Beef Cannelloni
This method of stuffing pasta before cooking can take a bit of time, but it is so worth it at the end.
RecipeTin Eats has an easy recipe for spinach and beef cannelloni that can be made for days of prep! Think lasagna, but much tastier when reheated. There are also one-pot lasagna alternatives if you are really short on time.
16. Cheesy Spinach Stuffed Shells
If you want something simpler, spinach and cheese stuffed shells can be frozen for days before cooking.
I recommend making as many as you can and freezing them in portioned-out containers. If you feel inspired to cook new things, try these stuffed shells with a different pasta sauce.
Use Kristine’s Kitchen recipe for a fulfilling meal!
17. Shrimp Fried Rice
Shrimp fried rice is a popular takeout food for college students and Damn Delicious has such a delectable recipe, it would be rude not to include this in your preparations.
This fried rice will still taste great when reheated, and adding more veggies can make it the ultimate meal. After having your personalized version, you won’t want to order out. Takeout who?
18. Vegetarian Chili Mac
If you are more interested in one-pot recipes, this vegetarian chili mac by Kristine’s Kitchen is a good one for any college student who preps their meals at the beginning of the day.
It is a slow cooker recipe, but there are plenty of others that are done in a much shorter time if that’s your preference.
19. Make-Ahead Baked Taquitos
Every college student has stumbled into a 7/11 and ordered those taquitos without knowing what was in it. In order to avoid that mistake again, make your own! You will appreciate the flavor and versatility of these taquitos.
I love this very effortless meal by The Oven Light and its freezer compatibility. Have these as a meal prep or a party snack with fresh guacamole and tomatoes.
20. Pesto Chicken Veggies
I love uncomplicated recipes and Tasty does an awesome job at helping college students recreate them. This recipe and cooking process is not even that difficult, so if you forget to meal prep, this can be a quick meal.
This pesto chicken and veggie recipe is one I find myself constantly going back to, and even changing up the veggies when I want to prep different meals!
21. Honey Sriracha Crock Pot Chicken
Another excellent batch recipe, this time by Fit Foodie Finds, and it only needs five ingredients! Pair this honey sriracha chicken with rice, veggies, quinoa, or potatoes for dinner.
This chicken is also a great lunch in a salad or a quick sandwich. The possibilities are endless!
22. Honey Garlic Chicken
This is another big batch recipe, but not as big as previous ones, for college students with fewer storage options, or who simply may not have as much time to prep meals.
This one is by Diethood and you won’t be disappointed.
23. Ground Turkey Stir Fry
Another takeout replacement, because we shouldn’t buy takeout every day, is this great ground turkey stir fry.
This is a great one-pan alternative as well and there’s nothing wrong with adding any extra veggies from other meal preps.
With The Girl on Bloor’s recipe, we will be eating low carb, fresh veggies, and guilt-free all through college!
24. Broccoli Stuffed Chicken
Cheesy broccoli stuffed chicken. Simple as that. Healthy Fitness Meals have made it easy to enjoy and endlessly appetizing.
This comfort food has been enhanced to be a healthier version, so you can eat this multiple times guilt-free.
Have some extra veggies to keep it low-carb. Keep this recipe around for those days you forget to meal prep. It’s that easy!
25. Jerk Chicken and Gingered Broccoli
Half Baked Harvest has presented us with this very fresh and Caribbean-inspired meal. Make sure you have the spices needed for this one.
Also, keep in mind that alteratiofns are not a bad thing! If you can’t find an ingredient, in this case edamame, opt for another veggie like snap peas or green beans.
As long as your seasoning is consistent, it will be a fulfilling meal. You’ll be excited to try something new with this dish!
26. Chicken Noodle Soup
Classic chicken noodle soup for those days where you work too hard and need some rest. Make sure you stock up for flu season! Eating Well has an easy recipe with very few ingredients.
You are going to love it because it is quick to prep. This effortless comfort food will become your favorite to recreate all year.
27. Black Bean Soup
Maybe you want a no-meat option of the soup. Tasty does a great job at creating recipes that use several plain and cheap ingredients to create a delightful soup.
There are many veggie options for those that want an easier soup to freeze. Top with a fresh veggie like avocado or even enjoy with some tortilla chips.
28. Creamy Chicken Tortellini Soup
Or maybe you are like me and Chelsea’s Messy Apron and prefer creamy soups. This chicken tortellini soup is a little time-consuming, but so, so worth it in the end.
You can make this as a big batch soup and save it for the winter months. Try it with some garlic bread if you have it!
29. Creamy Tomato Soup
Soups are uncomplicated and can be left in the freezer for days. Try this easy creamy tomato soup by The Recipe Rebel instead of opting for the can.
It tastes fresher, is easy to prep, and won’t cost you more than a fast-food meal. Don’t forget the grilled cheese!
30. Five Spice Beef Stew
Lastly, a hearty stew can get you through the week, especially during the colder months. They are easy to make and can last for a while, so plan accordingly.
The Cookie Rookie has a great, heavily seasoned recipe that is for sure to be the envy of your friends and roommates all through college. Add some toasted bread or sprinkle some cheese to improve the stew. Bon appetit!
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Are Plant-Based Diets The Future or a Thing of The Past?
Sticking to a plant-based diet is a thing that people have always done, but recently has made a comeback as a popular lifestyle choice. People on plant-based diets eat mostly fruits, vegetables, legumes, tubers, grains, and seeds, or concoctions that consist of one or more of those ingredients. You will not see people on these diets eating that much meat, such as beef, poultry, and fish, nor eggs or dairy, however, these foods are not always given up completely.
Plant-based diets have existed and been followed for a very long time for various reasons. While some people decide to stop eating animals for moral reasons, others live by a plant-based diet because of the many health benefits. Different forms of plant-based diets include being vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, fruitarian, and flexitarian, which allows for the consumption of some meat and dairy.
Just because someone decides to live a plant-based lifestyle does not mean they have to give up eating meat or dairy completely. Most plant-based diets are flexible in the sense that you will not be breaking any rules if you eat a piece of meat here and there. Eating plant-based is more of a mindset in which one prioritizes eating plant-derived foods rather than eating mostly meat, fish, or dairy. A whole-food diet is a diet where people eat foods that are as close to their natural state as they can be, staying away from all processed foods, added sugars, and unnatural chemicals.
A popular plant-based diet is called the whole-food, plant-based (WFPB) diet, which consists of elements of both a plant-based diet as well as a whole-foods diet where a person does not eat any processed foods, artificial sweeteners, added sugars, refined grains, or hydrogenated oils. The WFPB diet also recommends people stick to eating mostly whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds.
Are Plant-Based Diets Beneficial?
There are many studies and claims saying that eating a strictly plant-based diet is in many ways incredibly beneficial for people’s health. These studies say that some benefits of this diet can include, lower total cholesterol, lower risk of developing type two diabetes, improved cardiovascular health, improved glycemic control, loss of weight if needed, protection from various forms of cancer, improved neurocognitive function, and prevention and management of Dementia and Alzheimer’s.
The Journal of the American College of Cardiology published a study in 2017 that looked at the effects of a fully conformant WFPB diet and compared them to the effects of someone on a plant-based diet but also ate processed foods. The results showed that people on WFPB diets were much less likely to have any sort of heart disease, while a plant-based diet that still includes processed food actually increases the overall risk of heart disease. More research that has been done over time has shown that sticking to a WFPB diet can also possibly decrease a person’s requirement for certain medications such as statins, medication for blood pressure, and various diabetes drugs.
Even though there are many potential benefits of a plant-based diet, there have also been studies that show the opposite, claiming that plant-based diets can be more detrimental to someone’s health than beneficial.
“A plant-based diet sounds like it’d be inherently healthy, but that’s not always the case. Refined grains, added sugars, and vegan fast-food are all plant-based—but not the healthiest. Fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and some proteins make for more nutritionally sound choices,” Dietitian Nutritionist Kelly Plowe said.
Ensuring that you stick to the right diet that isn’t only plant-based but also naturally healthy is essential in getting the proper benefits that a plant-based diet can lead to.
Some downsides of following a WFPB diet include the fact that like any diet, it becomes an obligation to pay more attention when preparing and planning what you are going to eat, as it is hard to constantly find affordable healthy foods that are not processed. Also, once meat has been omitted from a diet, it becomes a challenge to consume the amount of protein and other nutrients that are recommended and required to survive.
People who follow these diets need to ensure that they eat enough protein, calcium, iron, and vitamin B12. It is true that eating a plant-based diet can potentially lead to a lower intake of necessary daily nutrients. However, if the proper time and effort are put into meal planning, eating the right nutrients should not be a huge problem for most people who want to stick to WFPB or any plant-based diet.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has dietary guidelines that include recommendations on what foods to eat to maintain a healthy plant-based diet that still includes a bit of meat. Some of the foods that the USDA mentions include vegetables, dark, leafy greens such as kale, spinach, broccoli, Swiss chard, and green beans. Fruits, berries, grains, oats lean meats such as chicken breast, fish, or turkey breast. Beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, dairy such as milk and cheese, as well as natural oils are also on the list.
While not eating meat and dairy technically does not meet the USDA guidelines of a healthy, well-balanced diet, it has been shown and proven that with the right planning, it is absolutely possible to take in everything necessary in order to continue to thrive by following a plant-based diet.
Pounds over Promise: The Cycle of Diet Culture and New Years Resolutions
At the start of a new year, everyone wants to start fresh. A few new styles, some changes to the daily routine, and sometimes, a big resolution. A very popular New Year’s resolution is to lose weight. How to do it? There are answers everywhere! Scrolling through Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, there’s bound to be someone talking about a new diet they’re trying. Influencers have been infamous for peddling dangerous diets to fanbases of young women and girls. Even mothers are not free from their reach. Bloggers like lonijane on Instagram showed how her body looked before and after cheating on her vegan diet. The combination of New Year’s resolutions and these various diets is a recipe for disaster. Diet culture around the first month of the New Year is intense and even dangerous.
What is “diet culture”?
Diet culture is described as a desire to lose weight at all costs, and puts losing weight over wellbeing. It is a combination of advertisements and what the advertisements make us feel. The feelings of inferiority or discomfort with your body are precisely what the industry feeds off of. Whether it’s a new diet every week, or even directly associating worth with weight, it is hard to escape.
Especially around the start of the New Year, diet culture is pervasive. Even on January 1, it’s been shown that topics surrounding dieting and exercise spike in search volume. Some particularly cruel advertisements from gyms feed into a sense of inferiority and reap the profits. In 2017, about 10.8% of subscriptions to over 6,400 gyms happened in January. The nature of what a diet should be is also constantly changing: keto, juice cleanses, the baby food diet, paleo… reading through the advertisements is enough to give someone whiplash.
Impact of influencers on diet culture
The advertisements don’t only come from the corporations— or not directly. Influencers are a major way for corporations to boost their product. Ads are nothing new, but the personal nature of Instagram, where people will also post parts of their life, is something different. What’s especially worrisome is that these influencers often have a huge following of minors, intentionally or not. More than one-third of teenagers in Germany aged 14 to 17 deliberately seek out influencers. Over 84% of the content from female influencers is related to health, diet, and fitness. Attractive and uniform, they promote a singular way of living and looking. It’s easy and profitable for them to do it that way. The issue is that there are a wide variety of bodies that exist. There is no “one size fits all” for health. Allergies, chronic conditions, and genes are all important factors.
How might influencers impact young people later in life, girls especially, as they can closely control their diet?
Guilty over existence
There are worries about “quarantine pounds”, as people have been stuck inside due to COVID-19. Nutritionists are worried that individuals will be more susceptible to weight loss advertisements. The guilt over quarantine pounds stack up, on top of the pre-existing guilt instilled by advertisements.
A poignant way that advertisers promote body shame is “before and after” shots. To show the efficacy of their product or program, diet companies will show the amount of weight lost after using their product. These pictures directly associate the “before” picture with bad or undesirable. People with these bodies are being shamed, and repeatedly seeing those images will have a lasting impression. Especially at the start of the year, when seeing one’s stomach after holiday meals, insecurity digs in.
These insecurities start young, but it’s not only by influencers. A study of mother-daughter pairs showed that daughters of dieting moms would start dieting before they were eleven. Given how close-quartered people are during quarantine, it’s likely that children will pick up on their family’s habits. Recently, there have been movements to stop mentioning weight around children. Whether the discussion is about the child’s weight or the parent’s, the children pick up on the criticism. Even people who aren’t parents can have a lasting impression. “She said, as if talking to herself, ‘Pretty face… have you ever thought about trying to lose weight?’” wrote a NYT contributor on her teenage experience with a friend’s mother. These comments linger and dig in, and around the holidays, they are especially amplified.
Hope for body positivity
Very recently, with stars like Lizzo proudly showing their nontraditional bodies, there has been an emphasis on accepting various looks. Plus-size models have made their ways onto catwalks and into major magazines, without necessarily acknowledging that they are plus size. YouTubers have made videos specifically showing how influencers may take their photos, so young girls may feel better about themselves. While the holidays are still bombarded with advertisements and commercials, there are still people reminding you of your worth.
Don’t feel ashamed for enjoying holiday food or eating more during winter! There’s a reason bears hibernate, and given the exhaustion of 2020, I think we all deserve it.
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