5 Alternatives to Stress Eating

By: Selena Shanahan, ’18, University Health Center Nutrition Peer Educator

Stress Eating

We’ve all been there before, you’re up late studying for a big exam you have coming up soon. Before you finally go to bed, you peer across your desk at the wreckage of empty bags and containers of everything you ate over the past few hours. Then come the thoughts, “That can’t be from just me! Did I really mindlessly eat all of that? I wasn’t even hungry, and I definitely didn’t know I even had (fill in the blank) in the house!”

Research shows that identifying and reducing non-hunger eating is key for maintaining a healthy body weight. Non-hunger eating is exactly what it sounds like- it’s eating food for any reason other than hunger. This can include, but is not limited to, eating out of boredom, to procrastinate doing work, avoiding thoughts or feelings, or to relieve stress.

Eating is a perfectly normal response to stress. After all, how many of us were actually taught how to manage stress before coming to college? For many of us, this is the most stressful time we have experienced. And even though eating out of stress isn’t always a bad thing, using food as the only way of coping with stress could lead to some unwanted weight gain.

Next time you feel like diving into the Ben & Jerry’s after a stressful day, try these five tips instead.

  1. Determine whether you are really hungry or not. Often times we can confuse thirst signals with hunger signals. Try drinking some water, and waiting a while to see if that helps.
  2. Go for a walk. Exercise has been proven to improve mood, help relax, and improve sleep.
  3. Call a friend or family member. Venting or just catching up with a friend can improve your mood or maybe even give you the confidence to face your problem head on.
  4. Try meditating. Meditation can help you relax during this stressful period of your life. Free individual and group meditation sessions are offered at the University Health Center (UHC) for students interested in trying it out!
  5. Make an appointment for relaxation training & stress management. Relaxation training, an appointment that uses biofeedback technology while practicing deep breathing, is another great, FREE service at the UHC!

If you find you are truly hungry, don’t deprive yourself! This will only make the urges stronger until you have eaten everything that is not nailed down. Instead try eating a purposeful snack. These snacks will give you the fuel you need to get through the late night of studying and keep you fuller longer.

If you would like more information about ways to manage non-hunger eating, reserve your FREE session with a Nutrition Coach today by calling 301-314-5664 or emailing nutritioncoach@umd.edu.

Posted in Nutrition, Physical Wellness, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Eating at Night—the Shocking Truth

By: Avital Schwartz, ‘17, University Health Center Nutrition Peer Educator

The Lilypad (4)


One of the most common eating adages out there is “don’t eat at night” or “don’t eat after dinner” or “don’t eat after 8 o’clock”. How much truth is there to this, you may ask?

And like anything, IT DEPENDS.

If you ate dinner at 6 p.m. and go to bed at 9 p.m., then maybe it would be a good idea not to eat after 8 p.m. so you aren’t uncomfortable when lying down with a full stomach. But, if you are a college student, and you go to bed at midnight, 1 a.m., 2 a.m., or later, you should…wait for it….ABSOLUTELY eat at night.

Now let me tell you why.

There are three main reasons that eating at night is not only appropriate, but recommended for college students, young adults, and anyone going to sleep late.

  1. Meet energy needs. Our bodies are like cars. We need to fuel them if we want them to keep running. And food is our fuel. If there is a paper that takes until 3 a.m. to finish, but we don’t eat after our dinner at 7:30, how could we expect our body to keep on driving us to the 3 a.m. deadline? That’s almost 8 hours with no fuel, when we really shouldn’t go longer than 4-5! Anybody would have trouble not sputtering to a stop at that point.
  2. Reach nutrient requirements. Many college students do not eat enough throughout the day to meet their nutrient requirements. We might skip breakfast (although not recommended), or just be too busy to eat purposefully every 4-5 hours. This is another reason eating at night is absolutely a good idea. Had dinner at 8:30? Staying up til 2 a.m.? Have another meal at 12:30! Have some veggies, whole grains, lean protein, etc, and you will find you have renewed energy, plus, you got in some food groups that you may have missed during the day.
  3. Include fun, purposeful late night snacks. Learn to incorporate fun foods into an overall balanced diet. College is stressful. So is living in general. So, it is not a surprise that many of us occasionally turn to food to manage our stress. Especially at night. The good news is we can use this tendency to our advantage. Stock your room/apartment/house with things you want to choose at night. Make them purposeful and make them something you enjoy. For example, keep yogurt around to have an easy, sweet, but calcium-rich choice right at your finger-tips. But, if your stress always results in turning to food, there are more effective ways to manage stress. To learn how, consider taking advantage of the free stress management services at the University Health Center.

To sum up, eating at night is a GOOD thing for people whose “night” is really still part of their “day”. Just watch out for the easy trap of using food to procrastinate at night. “If I finish one more page I can have X”, or “I’m just going to find something to eat and then work on my project”, and on and on. Food is important to fuel our bodies, and sometimes just for taste, but we have to be careful not to use it as a reward for everything.

In the comments section below, share what you fuel up with at night, or what you will try now.

To learn more about eating purposefully at night, reserve your session with a Nutrition Coach today by calling 301-314-5664 or emailing NutritionCoach@umd.edu.


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4 Chill Musical Outlets Around Campus

By Talia Klein, ’19, University Health Center, HEALTH Works Peer Educator

Leaving my home in Texas to come to UMD was tough and stressful. No, not as a result of the social changes, the challenging academics, or the anticipated homesickness. Rather, for me, it was due to a lost sense of musical freedom and accessibility.

I played violin in lower school, took guitar lessons in high school, and within the last year, taught myself some piano basics. Evidently, I alternate between instruments with little consistency. I am no professional musician; instead, I am one who thrives through singing and making music. So coming to college restricted and stifled my ability to pursue music… or so I had thought at the time.

Having discovered these four informal outlets around campus, I had found exactly what I needed. Get out there and try the following for yourself:

  1. Play piano in Anne Arundel Hall.   This piano, located in the basement of Anne Arundel Hall, is comfortably situated in the corner of the room. If you are a shy musician, you may find this the perfect location to play without much of an audience or visibility. I personally find this location convenient and naturally comforting with its cozy basement vibes. Try working in McKeldin for a few hours, then head about three minutes to Anne Arundel Hall to reward yourself and re-energize by playing, perhaps accompanied by singing.
  2. Sing on the top level of Mowatt Lane Garage. Ever wish you could belt out in song without restriction? Free your voice on the top level of Mowatt Lane Garage. Bring a friend or sing alone to experience this freeing, fulfilling opportunity. For those not seeking an audience, it is a wonderful place to sing without being heard, or at least without being identified or watched. For others, audiences and friends may be welcome too to experience the beautiful music and view together.
  3. Play piano in Stamp’s Baltimore Room. For the more daring musicians, check out the piano in the Baltimore Room in Stamp. Other students and faculty members will enjoy the background music as they work, eat, and pass by. Some may even come up to join you. This piano really possesses the potential to bring different people together to form a collaborative musical experience. Connections abound and await you.
  4. Attend or perform in Stamp’s Friday Showcase in front of the Co-Op. Every Friday during the school year from 12-1 pm, student performers and bands perform in front of the Co-Op in Stamp. These free weekly performances feature both solo and group performances, singers, instrumentals, and bands, and also welcome all other types of musical performances. While this outlet is more structured than the others suggested, you could even just stop by, listen, and enjoy the show.

Taking advantage of these musical outlets around campus enhances my overall well-being, rejuvenates my spirit, and nurtures my ability to focus in school. Music physically and mentally heals, making my body feel stronger and my mind feel calmer and more composed. Perhaps you, too, can designate these musical moments during your day as relaxing adventures and purposeful study breaks. Will your next musical performance be the key to enhancing your academic performance? Only time will tell…

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5 Tips to Dining Out in College

By: Thea Boatswain ’18, University Health Center Peer Educator

Around College Park, especially Route 1, there are plenty of delicious places to chow down on a good meal. From traditional burgers and fries, to pizza and pasta, to other international cuisines. These establishments feed the students of The University of Maryland on a daily basis.

As a University Health Center (UHC) Nutrition Coach I often hear my clients say they like to eat out but consider it unhealthy. Exclamations such as, “I love Nando’s but it’s not healthy” or “I went to Noodles and Co. but I probably shouldn’t be eating pasta.”  As part of the Sensible Nutrition Advocacy Program (SNAPs) we like to take the “all foods can fit” approach. This means, in moderation, meals at restaurants can most definitely fit into a healthy lifestyle.

To make the best out of your dining experience, I’ve compiled a list of 5 tips to help beat menu phobia.

  1. Look at the menu before you go

This is great so you have a no-pressure environment to take a good look at the menu and decide what you want. This will also afford you time to think about good substitutions you would like, if any. Most restaurants have their menus online so you can take a look at them. Places like Nando’s, Aroy Thai, Bobby’s Burger Palace, Noodles & Company and Cornerstone Grill, just to name a few, are all close to campus and have online menus.

2. Ask the waiter about substitutions

Your waiter/waitress should know great substitutions for the dishes served. Ask them! If they don’t know, an extra side of the seasonal vegetables are always a good option.

3. Look for items with health icons

Most sit down restaurants have adopted their own healthy meal option icons. Look for these icons and see if anything looks tasty! Beware of things advertised as low carb, though. Just because its low carb doesn’t mean low calorie.

4. Know various menu terms

Items that are named Au gratin, scalloped, buttered, creamed, crispy and stuffed are more than likely going to contain a heavy cream and/or butter and have higher saturated fat content.

Au jus, pickled, or cured can mean high sodium. If you’re trying to lower your sodium level these items might be on your ‘no’ list.

Steamed, roasted, broiled, grilled and poached are great to look for in a menu item.

5. Ask to box half of your entrée before you eat

This is great idea if you’re trying to control your portion sizes. It has been documented that Americans eat more than twice the recommended portion size than they should. If you can automatically put away half of your meal you are more likely to avoid over eating and picking at your food.

Have fun and enjoy your eating out experience.  With a little planning and strategizing you can eat at your favorite restaurants and still maintain a healthy diet.  Bon Appetite!

To learn more about, ways to meet all your nutritional needs while dining out, reserve your session with a Nutrition Coach today by calling 301-314-5664 or email NutritionCoach@umd.edu


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Eat In Season and Save Money!

By: Ashley Statter ’16, University Health Center Nutrition Peer Educator


As a nutrition coach, one of the most common excuses I hear from students for not eating enough fruits and vegetables is that they are expensive. As a college student, I completely understand how frustrating it can be to balance your budget while buying fresh and nutritious foods. But it is possible! And one of the best ways to do this is to buy seasonal produce.

Believe it or not, there is actually quite a lot of produce that is in season in the winter. While it is always important to eat lots of fruits and veggies, it is especially important during the winter months to boost your immune system during cold and flu season.

Next time you go to the grocery store try some of these fruits and veggies that thrive in the winter months:

  • Antioxidant packed pomegranates and cranberries, which reduce inflammation
  • Vitamin C rich citrus fruits, such oranges, clementine, lemons, and grapefruits, to support immune function.
  • Vitamin A rich root vegetables, such as carrots, turnips, beets, parsnips, sweet potatoes, onions, and butternut squash, to promote good eyesight, healthy skin, boost immunity, and reduce inflammation.
  • Fiber-full and nutrient rich Brussels sprouts, kale, and cabbage to keep your digestive system healthy and prevent constipation.
  • Potassium rich pumpkin to turn carbohydrates into energy and build protein to fuel your muscles

You can incorporate these foods into your diet by:

  • Packing citrus fruits as a snack to eat between classes. Their tough outer skin keeps them safe in your backpack!
  • Enjoying carrots sticks with hummus or guacamole
  • Making a colorful salad with kale, onion, and pomegranates
Winter Salad

Winter salad with kale and pomegranate, courtesy of Well Plated by Erin

Butternut Squash Soup, courtesy of Epicurious

  • Roasting sweet potatoes or Brussels sprouts in the oven for a tasty side dish
  • Baking french fries from root vegetables for a fun and nutritious spin off of a popular comfort food
  • Whipping up a pumpkin pie because there is always room in a healthy diet to treat yourself!

Not only is seasonal produce cheaper, it can often be better quality compared to produce that is not in season. In addition, buying in season can help add variety to your diet. It is easy to get in a rut and keep eating the same foods over and over again. By varying food choices with the seasons, you can add diversity to your diet and engage your palate in new and exciting flavors. Make sure to check out the Farmer’s Market on the UMD campus located outside of Cole Fieldhouse starting April 5th!

To learn more about seasonal eating through the remainder of winter and beyond, and how to create healthy eating habits, reserve your session with a University Health Center Nutrition Coach today by calling 301.314.5664 or emailing NutritionCoach@umd.edu.


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Celebrate Love Your Body Week by Eating Right!

By:  Rebecca Heming, ’18, University Health Center Nutrition Peer Educator


There’s lots of different messages about how we should look and what we should eat. One of the best ways we can love our bodies is by fueling it right! By fueling our bodies well, we give it all the nutrients we need to not only look great, but feel great too! It seems like every day there is a new diet out there to try, but diets are often restrictive and complicated to follow which leads to many of them failing quickly. Luckily, there is a simpler way!

So, how can you make sure you are eating right? Follow these tips!

  1. Plan to eat every 3-4 hours. This usually equates to 3 meals + 1-2 purposeful snacks. Eating consistently ensures that you are providing your body with a steady infusion of fuel and nutrients. A purposeful snack should be a protein or dairy group combined with a fruit or grain group – for example, an apple with peanut butter.
  2. Get a variety of all five food groups in. The five food groups are protein, grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy. Aim to get all the different colors of the rainbow into your diet! Eat a variety of foods that fall into each of the five food groups. Aim for two different fruits and 3 different vegetables each day along with two servings of fish per week.
  3. Pay attention. Our bodies truly know best.  Notice how hungry and full you are throughout the day. To make it easier to make healthful food choices and manage portions, avoid letting yourself get too hungry. Slow down your pace of eating and check in with your hunger level during your meals so you stop before you get stuffed!
  4. Enjoy the foods you eat and include some of your favorite foods. Healthy eating doesn’t mean deprivation! It’s perfectly OK to allow yourself to enjoy treats on occasion. Make sure your weight management plan is filled with foods you will enjoy eating throughout your life.
  5. Make sure your food fits your budget & lifestyle. When planning your meals and snacks, make sure the foods you choose are accessible and fit into your budget. Take advantage of the University of Maryland CO-OP, Farmers Market, and Campus Food Pantry. You can take bus 143 to get to the nearby Giant (grocery store), have your groceries delivered through a service like Peapod, or use Amazon as well.
  6. Start with small changes – you’re much more likely to succeed in reaching your goals if you start with small, realistic changes. Make your goals SMART!

I encourage you to pick one tip above and try it out for a week! I’d love to hear which tip you are working on and make sure to share it below in the comments section!

To learn more about creating a healthy diet, reserve your session with a Nutrition Coach today by calling 301-314-5664 or emailing nutritioncoach@umd.edu.

Posted in Nutrition, Physical Wellness | 5 Comments

5 Tips for Healthful Desserts

By: Emma Slattery ‘18, University Health Center Nutrition Peer Educator


All foods can fit into a healthy diet- cookies and brownies as well as apples and broccoli- but it’s important to keep your fun foods in moderation. If you’re like me, and have a major sweet tooth, maintaining that healthful moderation can be especially challenging. If I start to get a sweet sugary craving my sweet tooth will see the Oreo cake across the diner and not just WANT that cake but NEED that cake. My sweet tooth wants the double chocolate chip muffin for breakfast, a cookie with lunch, and a cake after dinner. But your sweet tooth doesn’t have to be your enemy! There’s no reason you can’t satisfy your craving for sugar without sacrificing nutrition.  This is the premise in which our Nutrition Coaching Service at the Health Center is based on, “Have Your Cake and Eat It Too!”.

By following these 5 tips you’ll be able to enjoy desserts in a fun and healthful way!

Tip 1: Make fruit the main ingredient in the dessert.

By focusing on fruit you not only benefit from some valuable nutrients and fiber, but also a sweet taste! Fruits are full of natural sugars that can be a great, healthful way to satisfy a sugar craving. Some quick examples to try at home are dark chocolate covered strawberries or peaches with cool whip and frozen yogurt.

Tip 2: Use frozen yogurt instead of regular ice cream.

This substitution cuts back on saturated fats without sacrificing a cold treat. Frozen yogurt is also a great way to get some calcium and Vitamin D in your diet. Tossing some berries, banana, or even chocolate chips on frozen yogurt makes for a delicious dessert.


Tip 3: Substitute dark chocolate in place of milk chocolate.


The cocoa powder that is used to make chocolate has been proven to lower blood pressure, support heart health, and act as an antioxidant. Eating dark chocolate maximizes these effects because of the higher amount of cocoa (around 60%) and lower amounts of milkfat and sugar. You can eat it as a bar, dip strawberries or other fruit in it, or sprinkle dark chocolate chips on a bowl of frozen yogurt.


Tip 4:  Switch out denser cakes for angel food cake.

Angel food cake still has the classic cake taste and texture, but because it’s lighter it has fewer calories. It also pairs great with some berries, dark chocolate chips, or even a little drizzle of caramel.

Tip 5: Enjoy your dessert mindfully!

You don’t always have to switch out a brownie for a berry dessert, if you’re going to eat a brownie you should enjoy it! Portion it on a plate and sit down away from distractions. When you take a bite actually savor it, taste it, and enjoy it.

The next time you get a sugar craving and need a fix, use these tips to slow down and enjoy your dessert without sacrificing your nutrition. For more information on healthful sweets or fitting fun foods in moderation reserve your session with a Nutrition Coach today by calling 301-314-5664 or emailing nutritioncoach@umd.edu

Posted in Nutrition, Physical Wellness, Uncategorized | 6 Comments