As college students, we are faced with everyday stressors including classes, homework, projects, work, and even finding the time to do your laundry. Overwhelmed by all these responsibilities, students often have difficulty trying to find time to eat a nutritious meal. Instead, they will opt to grab a quick snack. For Fairfield University students, it is easy to just grab a muffin at Einstein’s or a bag of chips at the Stag quickly between classes. Though these options are more convenient, they are not healthy. These choices deprive your body of the nutrition it needs to keep running all day.

Another problem college students face is binge eating when stressed. We can all admit to snacking from that bag of chips besides us while doing homework, or eating out of a tub of ice cream after a long day. Though not necessarily healthy, this is a normal reaction of your body when it is under stress.

In response to stressful situations, your body reacts by a release of hormones from your adrenal glands. One of these hormones includes cortisol, which is responsible for blood sugar levels in your body. An excess release of cortisol elevates the amount of sugar in your bloodstream and can ultimately lead to increased appetite. In these situations, the body often desires sugary and high-fat foods. These “comfort foods” can be very appealing to students under stress.

You may feel like you cannot suppress your body’s reaction to stress by eating, which may be true, but you can satisfy your hunger in a healthy way. If you are craving something sweet, go for a piece of fruit rather than candy. If you want something salty grab a handful of nuts rather than potato chips. Another healthy snack option- spread some peanut butter on a whole grain rice cake and add a few dark chocolate chips. Popcorn can be a healthy snack, just do not load on butter and salt! Low-sodium soups, such as chicken noodle, can be a nutritious satisfaction to your hunger.

There are many other helpful options to relieve stress instead of eating. Some of these strategies are meditation, exercise, and even just talking to a family member or friend. Instead of reaching for that candy, sit down, close your eyes and take deep breaths for a few minutes. Go on a fifteen minute run or walk around campus, this will release endorphins in your body and make you feel a lot better. Spend a little time giving your parents or a friend back home a call. Talking about your stresses to someone else might take some weight off your shoulders.

In reality, being a college student, your stress will never subside. There are many positive ways to cope with stress besides eating. Try one of the healthy practices I mentioned previously rather than stuffing your face with food.  I challenge you to try and substitute your unhealthy snacks for healthier options. Your body and mind are interconnected, and ultimately, the health of your body is dependent on the health of your mind. If you have any other questions regarding this topic or are curious about additional healthy snack ideas, you can reach me at Stephanie.piccolo@student.fairfield.edu

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