With the beginning of another school year, more than 150 million students in higher education across the globe prepare for their first day of classes. For many first-time college students, this is the start of a new adventure. This new autonomy brings with it a number of important changes.
The balancing act
Studies show that students develop unhealthy habits in their new environment. Dr. Catriona Davis-McCabe, a chartered counseling psychologist at Teesside University in the United Kingdom highlights eating as a common way of coping with stress and anxiety. And without the guidance of their parents, skipping meals (especially breakfast), late night eating and unbalanced nutrition become commonplace.
These factors contribute to the fact that the greatest increase in overweight and obese adults occurs during college years (between the ages of 18-29). This phenomenon is so common that the United States has coined the phrase, “The Freshman15,” in reference to the 15-pound average weight gain that freshman experience.
The learning process at stake
While the most visible result of poor eating habits is weight gain, the impact on the learning process must also be taken into account. While the brain represents only 2% of total body weight, it accounts for about 20% of the body’s energy consumption.
“For your brain to function optimally, it requires sufficient levels of glucose, electrolytes and amino acids, all of which are obtained through the foods you eat,” according to Neuroscientist Matthew Stanford, professor of psychology, neuroscience and biomedical studies at Baylor University. “Deficiencies in any of these vital nutrients can lead to cognitive confusion, forgetfulness, lack of attention and mood swings.”
Universities can contribute to students’ health and academic performance by offering balanced, affordable meal options. Sodexo’s wide range of innovative services can help universities to do so.
Healthy food options: a driver for student performance
“It’s about making the healthy choice the easy choice,” says Roxanne Moore, National Director of Wellness for Sodexo. Moore is also in charge of the Mindful offer by Sodexo which is designed to help students identify healthy eating options. Mindful is an approach that focuses on ingredients, food quality, portion size and awareness so that making mindful choices becomes second nature. “Healthy options are there, students just need ways to identify them.”
At the same time, new technology is constantly being developed to attract this highly mobile generation of young people to take responsibility for their health. The MyFitnessPal, proposed in conjunction with Mindful, allows users to easily track food intake and download nutrition information with user-friendly barcodes. A Sodexo nutritionist can also answer students’ questions and guide them along on this journey to a healthier way of life.
“Students are going out and establishing a life of their own,” says Moore as a conclusion, “it’s our duty to help them establish life skills and show them how these skills can have an impact on their future.”
As the world leader in Quality of Life services, everyday Sodexo helps more and more students reach their academic potential. Providing nourishing meals and skills to students to make their own healthy decisions are just some of the ways we do so.