Despite the significant implications of healthy eating on overall long-term health, many college students engage in poor dietary habits, such as high intake of fast foods and other foods high in fat, low intake of fruits, vegetables, and dairy, and erratic eating behaviors such as meal skipping.1 A balanced diet can help students increase energy levels, promote a functioning immune system, improve their ability to cope with stress, and increase concentration and performance in school. Healthy eating is influenced by a variety of factors. For students in particular, factors influencing dietary habits include time, availability of healthy options, friends’ eating habits, and nutritional knowledge. University stakeholders can support healthy eating by making healthy options affordable, accessible, and desirable while providing information on making healthy food and beverage choices.
This page is intended to be a resource containing suggestions for what you can do to improve NYU students’ dietary habits and nutritional status.
• Provide healthy meals and snacks at meetings and events. The New York State Department of Health Guidelines for Healthy Meetings provide menu suggestions and meeting tips.
o Offer water, low-fat milk, coffee and tea at all events in place of sweetened beverages.
o Offer fruits and vegetables at events.
Such guidelines have been shown to increase consumption of healthier foods and beverages.18
• Where possible, allow students to eat and drink in class. Many students engage in poor dietary habits such as skipping meals.1 Consider allowing students to eat and drink, especially if your class is longer than 1 hour and at a prime meal time; i.e., a 3 hour lecture from 6-9pm. Of course, only allow food and drink consumption if it is a safe environment and not disruptive to the class.
• Remind students to take snack breaks during study time to fuel their brain most efficiently and mindfully. Discourage eating while studying. For examples of healthy snacks, students can visit: LiveWellNYU.com or the NYU Student Health Center's Nutrition Services.
• Accommodate a variety of lifestyles and eating habits when providing food for students, including vegan, vegetarian, kosher, and gluten-free food items.
• Promote NYU nutrition and eating disorder resources and services. Use your newsletters, email announcements, bulletin boards, and other modalities to promote nutrition tips, resources, and services. Promote the Nutrition Resource Guide, which provides a listing of on-campus programs and resources for students to engage in nutrition related issues or to help them develop healthier eating habits. Visit the NYU Student Health Center's Nutrition Services, the Wellness Exchange or LiveWellNYU.com for ideas and suggested content.
• Be aware of the warning signs of an eating disorder: significant weight loss or gain, change in mood/affect, continued distress about food and body, avoidance of social situations where food is offered, making excuses to eat less, exercise over rest/sleep/social events, grades dropping, skipping class. If you think that a student may be struggling, contact the Wellness Exchange at 212-443-9999 for advice about how to handle the situation.
• Promote consumption of water or low-calorie beverages instead of sugary drinks. A major contributor to the obesity epidemic is the sugar consumed in beverages such as soda, coffee beverages, fruit drinks, sweetened teas and sports drinks.19,20,21 These beverages provide excess calories and few essential nutrients to a student’s overall diet. Drinking water has been shown to increase students’ hydration and cognitive function,21 which may lead to more alertness and better academic performance. At university-sponsored events, provide pitchers of water or water stations instead of sweetened beverages, and when possible offer reusable water bottles. If you notice an academic building or activity space lacks water coolers or water filtration systems, speak with your Faculty Senators Council representative to advocate for improved access.
• Create prep stations in lounges and other appropriate common areas. When possible, and always in conjunction with facility guidelines and regulations, install refrigerators, microwaves, and tap water filtration systems, which will help provide a sanitary place to wash, cut and wrap fruit/vegetables for immediate consumption or storage; refrigerate/heat up healthy meals; and promote drinking tap water instead of sugar beverages.
• Provide a “suggested plate” of food served at events and meetings. These displays will model portion control for both the staff member serving the food and for the student. Preliminary research has supported the effectiveness of portion control tools in weight loss.23 For nutrition guidelines and resources, visit NYU Student Health Center Nutrition Services or www.choosemyplate.gov; or contact LiveWellNYU (firstname.lastname@example.org) for further assistance.
• Advocate for healthier options in the campus vending machines. Foods and beverages sold in vending machines are not mandated by nutrient standards; therefore vending options may be high in calories, total fat, saturated fat, added sugars, cholesterol, and sodium. Limiting access to calorie-dense and nutritionally empty foods has been shown to reduce the consumption of these items. With your help, NYU can develop nutrition policies that curb the sale of these less healthy food choices. Speak to your Faculty Senators Council to advocate for healthier options.