Six Tips From a Dietitian For Balancing a Healthy Diet (while being a busy student)

By Raylene Lung

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash

The start of a new semester means another bulk grocery trip to stock up on instant ramen, Kraft Dinner or other processed foods that are quick, easy and cheap. Sometimes the stress of a busy student life means you forget to eat at all, causing you to lose energy and the ability to concentrate.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. If you’re looking to make a change to your eating habits, Carleton dining services’ registered dietitian, Jackeline Samaniego, offers one-on-one consults for students. 

In the meantime, CUOL spoke to Samaniego to learn a few quick tips for tackling a healthier diet. Master these tips, and you could very well be on your way to increasing your focus and achieving student success.

1. Get those fatty acids.

Samaniego says that while there is not one specific food that helps increase your focus, there are foods that can help with cognitive function. Fatty acids, especially omega-3, are the go-to.

However, we tend to have enough omega-6 in our diet and not enough omega-3. Unequal intakes of omega-3 and omega-6 fats are related to increased risk of depression, lower concentration and memory problems, Samaniego says. So, chow down on omega-3 foods like salmon, sardines and trout, or more affordable options like walnuts, flaxseed and chia seeds.

2. Always have a snack handy.

“To maintain focus, you can’t be hungry, so it’s important that you keep healthy snacks with you to keep you fueled throughout class,” Samaniego says.

As a rule, if you go more than four hours between meals, you should have a snack. Samaniego suggests that snacks should contain complex carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables or whole grains and protein.

3. Avoid processed foods and sugar.

As sweet as they are, it’s best to limit your intake of processed foods and added sugars.

“When you eat foods high in added sugars, you will get a spike in blood sugar levels and then a steep decrease, which will make you hungry again and not able to concentrate,” Samaniego says.

4. Drink lots of water.

Don’t dive for the Coca Cola try to curb your cravings and reach for the water instead. Samaniego suggests carrying a reusable bottle is a helpful reminder to drink water during the day.

5. Keep that immune system strong.

Your diet can strongly affect your immune system, so in order to keep your immunity on the up, maintaining a balanced diet is key. Samaniego suggests drinking more water, eating fruits and vegetables, and avoiding added sugars, salt and saturated fats keeps your immune system strong.

“Students have a busy schedule that can at times be stressful, and stress can weaken the immune system,” she says.

6. Be SMART.

Samaniego says that the secret to keeping good habits is about writing down goals to help you maintain your healthy diet. She suggests choosing a SMART goal one that’s Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. 

This method makes it easier to follow through and stick to your healthy eating habits. She says to start with smaller goals in terms of eating habits, then make them more challenging as you go.

“It’s all in the small steps you take to reach that bigger goal because those small successes will motivate you to achieve bigger changes and goals,” Samaniego says. 

If students are looking to get in contact with the registered dietitian on campus, they can set up an appointment or inquire through Samaniego’s email