Nutrition: Ways to eat smart on a meal plan

One of the largest barriers to eating well in college is the lack of accessibility to healthy food.. Sometimes  after a long day of classes you those Oreos in Maggie’s definitely hit the spot. If you want to try something new to stay healthy on a meal plan and stop yourself from snacking at night, consider intermittent fasting. 

There are many different versions of intermittent fasting, but most of them are extremely hard to consistently keep up with and have little benefit over conventional diets. For example, the method where you fast for two days then eat for five is particularly grueling and produces little results compared to the amount of work required to maintain it. Fasting every other day also does not yield any better results over conventional dieting. 

The more conventional method, time-restricted feeding (TRF), is much easier and has more studies supporting it as an effective diet. You start by choosing a window of time that is less than 10 hours when you eat during the day. It is critical to make sure you eat enough during this window. Not eating enough can be seriously detrimental to your health. Also, everybody’s body is different, so if you try intermittent fasting and observe an abnormal amount of weight loss or gain, you notice your energy levels dipping or if it is too hard to consistently keep up, you should stop and go back to eating normally. 

The basic science behind it is pretty simple. Insulin goes down between meals as long as you do not snack between them. Your insulin levels going down causes the body to release more fat for energy during this time. The main purpose behind intermittent fasting is trying to get your insulin levels down long enough for your body to burn off fat. TRF has also been shown to suppress your appetite during the hours where you are not eating. This should prevent snacking and eating late at night which leads to fat gain. 

This might seem hard, but it is easier in practice than on paper, especially with a meal plan. If you have a 14-meals-with-flex plan, then most of the time is already laid out for you. Instead of eating breakfast and dinner, you can instead eat an early lunch at the Bon and then get an early dinner. Make sure that if these are your only two meals you eat the proper amount of food, around 1,000 calories per meal. If that is too much food, consider between your two meals to eat a third meal.

While it is not a crime to engage in some late night snacking, intermittent fasting can help decrease your cravings for unhealthy food late at night. When looking for specific healthy foods to eat at the Bon, feel free to ask an experienced upperclassmen or look at the official Bon Appétit website for more information about the food you are eating.

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