Health: How to eat for your fitness goals


A variety of healthy options served at Gilbert Hall.

By Northern Star staff

The number one challenge with eating healthy on campus is trying to plan ahead, said Nutrition program coordinator Meg Burnham.

Thinking ahead about where you’ll be and what food options you’ll have available is helpful, as well as packing healthy snacks, Burnham said.

“I feel like students are go go go; they’re busy busy busy,” Burnham said. “So some of those food decisions that they make are very last minute decisions and then sometimes it’s not the best decision in that moment of being really hungry.”

Here are Burnham’s diet suggestions for different fitness goals:

Gaining Muscle

In order to gain muscle you need three things, Burnham said.

“You need to train, …  to challenge those muscles,” Burnham said. “Number two is adequate calories, which is eating enough in general, and number three is protein.”

Protein-rich foods are any meats, fish, eggs, dairy products, milk, cheese, greek yogurt, and plant-based proteins like beans, nuts and soy products.

Losing Weight

“If someone wanted to lose weight, ultimately they should look at decreasing their portion sizes,” Burnham said. “Not dramatically but even slight reduction can be helpful and really emphasizing the fruits and vegetables.”

A healthy eating technique called the plate method can help students to eat more mindfully, Burnham said.

“From a weight management perspective, we look at half that plate being filled with fruits and vegetables and then about a quarter of that plate being filled with your starchy foods like maybe rice or a potato, pasta … and then another quarter of that plate being filled with those protein foods,” Burnham said.

Maintaining and Eating Healthy

Burnham said she likes to follow the philosophy of 75/25 when choosing what to eat.

The 75/25 strategy entails choosing healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains like brown rice and whole grain bread 75 percent of the time and then allowing for flexibility 25 percent of the time.

“The residence halls, they have the whole variety of foods,” Burnham said. “Every meal they’re gonna have healthier items and then items that are more of a treat, or fun foods as I call them.”

Burnham said that when eating fun foods, taking smaller portions and savoring every bite is important, as well as not feeling guilty about it.

Gaining Weight

“If someone’s looking for general weight gain, you need the healthy calories like dried fruits, nuts, peanut butter … foods that are higher calories but are still nutritious,” Burnham said. “Cheese would be one.”

Burnham said switching from skim milk to 2 percent milk can also help those who hope to gain some pounds in a healthy manner.