We’ve all heard the cliché rule when it comes to eating healthy: everything in moderation. But what exactly does that mean? It definitely does not mean polishing off that whole bag of potato chips in one sitting. For most of us, that seems to be a pretty obvious violation of the moderation recommendation. But what about guzzling down a 20-ounce soda or chowing down on a pack of Ramen for lunch? How about polishing off a carton of Ben & Jerry’s while watching the new episode of “Castle?”
Most college students wouldn’t think twice before consuming the whole container or package of these foods, as that seems to be the norm. I mean, who is going to drink half a bottle of Coke and save the rest for tomorrow or only eat half of a package of Ramen for lunch, sparing the remainder for dinner? The thing is, when you look closely at products like these, the recommended serving size is often less than the entire package.
For example, a box of good ol’ Kraft Macaroni and Cheese contains three, one-cup servings per box. But chances are that you are definitely not going to feel full and satisfied after a measly cup of noodles, especially if you’re used to eating nearly the whole box yourself.
That’s the tricky part about sticking to serving sizes and consuming appropriate portions of food: oftentimes you’re still hungry. This can lead to even more overconsumption than if you would have eaten the whole box of mac due to excessive, mindless nibbling and snacking. This poses a dilemma, but lucky for you, I have a solution — one that will allow you to master the art of moderation, stay healthy and still enjoy all of your favorite foods.
The key to sticking to serving sizes on your favorite packaged foods — and to feeling satisfied while doing so — is to bulk them up with other foods that are less dense in calories.
Read on below for my tips to sticking to moderate portion sizes on some favorite college food essentials.
1. Trail mix
This sweet and salty combination is a favorite snack for on-the-go students. However, the serving size is generally only a quarter of a cup, which is about a single handful, while many people polish off a half of a bag at a time. The solution here? Scoop out that quarter of a cup and mix it with a about a cup of Cheerios (or your other favorite whole grain dry cereal) or plain popcorn. This will add less than 100 calories and give you five times the amount to snack on compared to a single serving of trail mix alone.
2. Ice Cream
Nothing sounds better than parking yourself in front of the TV with a pint of creamy, cold Babcock Berry Alvarez after a hectic day of class. And nothing sounds worse than eating a skimpy half-cup of it, only to be left with an unsatisfied sweet tooth. That’s right: those pints of ice cream contain four, one-half cup servings. Instead of overindulging in the entire pint, start with a bed of berries or sliced banana in your bowl. Then top it off with half a cup of that Babcock goodness. This change bumps up the volume of your snack while keeping calories in check: compare the 40 calories in half a cup of blueberries versus 150 calories in a second scoop of ice cream!
Oh, the beloved Ramen. That lovely brick of noodles that quickly becomes a satisfying dinner for the budget-conscious college student. But only half of that block. Yes, that’s right, Ramen is meant for two, with two servings per pack. Instead of downing the whole pack yourself, split it with your roommate and add in two cups of fresh or frozen vegetables like carrots, corn, or broccoli. This more than doubles the size of your meal, all with minimal caloric impact, and adds in an extra serving of vegetables which are high in fiber and will help you feel full. This simple veggie trick works well for canned soups, macaroni and cheese, fettuccine alfredo and even Spaghetti-Os.
The key idea here is that dense, low-calorie foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein and low-calorie whole grain options can be combined with almost any of your favorite, more indulgent foods to increase the size of your meal or snack all while keeping calories at a reasonable and healthy level. By incorporating these foods into your favorite meals and snacks, you can eat more for your “caloric buck” and adhere to healthy recommended serving sizes. This practice will allow you to enjoy all of your favorite foods to their fullest without ever feeling deprived, or, more importantly, without ever leaving the table hungry again.
Gussied Up Easy Mac
There is no longer the need for the “two-Easy-Mac-Cup dinner.” This bowl of deliciousness is loaded with vegetables and a bit of lean protein to help fend off the post-dinner munchies.
This is so easy I’m not sure I can even call it a recipe.
- One package of Easy Mac (or similar pasta)
- One cup of fresh or frozen peas, carrots, broccoli or mixed vegetables
- Two cups of fresh or frozen spinach
- 5 cherry or grape tomatoes
- 3 slices lean, smoked deli ham
- Black pepper, to taste
Prepare macaroni as directed.
Place vegetables and spinach in covered dish and steam in the microwave for 1-2 minutes or until al dente. Halve the cherry tomatoes, dice the ham.
Stir the steamed vegetables, tomatoes and ham into the hot, cooked macaroni. Mix well to combine.
Season with black pepper to taste.