Let’s face it: Keeping a healthy weight during college is beyond difficult. Busy schedules, late night studying (and partying), tailgating – all of it keeps students from eating healthy meals.
Lisa Lillien, the woman behind the Hungry Girl franchise, gave Campus Circle a few tips for college students to make healthy, low-calorie and low-fat meals. Lillien is a New York Times best-selling author, has a weekly column on WeightWatchers.com and a TV show ("Hungry Girl") that airs on both the Food Network and Cooking Channel.
Campus Circle: Why do college students have the tendency to gain weight?
Lisa Lillien: College students tend to gain weight for many reasons. One reason is they're super-busy and keep weird hours, which sometimes makes it difficult to plan ahead...and so they're constantly eating fast food. Or late at night. Also, there's tons of socializing going on, which often leads to temptation, party foods, fried stuff, etc.
CC: What are some basic tips you would recommend to college students so they can cut calories?
LL: One great one is to always keep emergency snacks around. No matter where you are, pack your pack with smart snacks: 100-calorie packs of almonds, jerky (which is low in calories and fat and high in protein!), whole fruits, etc. If you have those around when you start feeling hungry, you'll be less likely to reach for snacky, oily, high-calorie foods at some point.
CC: You offer innovative ideas to avoid fatty calories in your recipes? What exactly are fatty calories?
LL: My recipes tend to cut both fat and calories from foods. But "fatty" calories are the calories that come from fat. Each gram of fat contains nine calories - so for every gram of fat you save, you save nine calories. Keep in mind some fat is good (and we definitely need fats in our diet. But you don't need tons of it), and you don't need the bad kinds of fat that often come along with greasy foods.
CC: A lot of college students stay in dorms that don’t have kitchens. How can college students stay healthy and cut calories when they eat at the dining halls?
LL: You can make good choices in the dining hall. There are lots of staples there that you can indulge in regularly. Some of my favorites are broth-based soups, lean meats, lean deli meats, fresh veggies and salads (without lots of butter or dressing!), steamed veggies, fresh fruit, etc. You can always put together a great meal. When I was in school, I used to go to the sandwich bar and load up my plate with lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, etc. and then top it with turkey breast -- instead of eating a sandwich on a roll.
CC: Most college students also move into apartments after living in the dorms. With a kitchen to cook in, what are some healthy, calorie-cutting tips you would give to students who attempt to cook their own meals?
LL: Keep lots of easy things around that can help make it super-simple to throw together good meals! [There are] a lot of super-convenient stuff like frozen veggie medleys, pre-cooked frozen chicken and or shrimp, fruit, bagged salads, etc. Also keep things like non-stick cooking spray around, instead of oil. And college students should read labels and pay attention to what they're buying.
CC: What are a few must-haves that you recommend every college student should have in their fridge and cabinets that are low-calorie, low fat and/or provide energy?
LL: I say 100 calorie packs of almonds...apples...eggbeaters or egg whites, turkey slices, cut veggies, fruit salad...and I'm a big fan of jerky. There are some great all natural jerky finds out there!
For Hungry Girl's healthy college recipes, click here.
And to get Lisa's new book HUNGRY GIRL TO THE MAX! THE ULTIMATE GUILT-FREE COOKBOOK, visit hungry-girl.com.