Healthy Eating: A Way of Life, Not Just a Fad

Photo credit: Medical News Today

by: Brett Marshall, CSU Public Relations Intern

As healthy eating and active lifestyles continue to sweep the nation, Minnesota State University, Mankato is doing its part to help its students and staff lead healthier lives.

“Nutrition and eating habits play a large role in your overall health,” Lexi Cournoyer, MSU campus dietician, said. “I think it is important for college students to develop healthy eating habits that they can carry throughout the rest of their lives.”

According to research conducted by Havard Medical School, eating healthy food can contribute to not only better physical health, but also mental health. This is due largely in part to a neurotransmitter called serotonin. Serotonin is produced in the gastrointestinal tract, which is lined with nerve cells. These nerve cells produce the serotonin and they function better when good foods and “good bacteria” pass through them. They send signals throughout body and help your body and brain to feel better.

Cournoyer says that some foods that people should try to consume more of, if they’re trying to eat better, include whole grains, lean proteins such as chicken, fish, turkey, beans and legumes, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products.

“It’s important to that everyone finds a positive relationship with food and understands that everything can be enjoyed in moderation,” she said.

Good nutrition can also help students succeed academically.

“Having a good breakfast can help increase your concentration and focus in class,” Cournoyer said. She also added that smart snacking can aid in memorization.

Food shouldn’t be consumed whenever someone feels like it either. Cournoyer said that everyone is different when it comes to how many times a day they eat. Some people can eat three larger meals and some snacks, others benefit from five to six smaller meals and less snacking.

“To find out what works best for you, try and really listen to your hunger cues and eat only when you are hungry. This can help you figure out how often you should be eating throughout the day,” she said.

MSU has expanded health food options it offers both in the University Dining Center (UDC) and in the MavAve food court. The UDC has expanded the salad bar and added a cold vegan bar, which has lots of plant-based proteins. Cournoyer said that each day a lean protein, hot and cold vegetable options and fresh fruits are offered. She added that Sodexo, the food provider for the UDC, has a wellness platform called “Mindful,” which features healthy entrées that the UDC incorporates into their menu cycle.

“Our campus also meets ‘Mindful Gold,’ which is a standard set by Sodexo focused solely on healthful options. Our campus now having a dietician is a great step forward as well,” Cournoyer said.

MavAve is ramping up their efforts for healthy options as well. For entrées, Cournoyer said places like Toss, Star Ginger and Garbanzo offer great options with things like fresh vegetables and lean meats. She also highlighted the various healthy snack options ranging from fruit and vegetable cups to Baby Bell Cheese to Kind bars. These products are all listed under “Dietician’s Choice” labels indicating they’re a great option for people who are watching what they eat.

MSU is also working on increasing programming that focuses on nutrition and wellness. Cournoyer said MSU expands the number of events each year that focus on health. National Nutrition Month, which takes place in March, is one of the major events. She said they have lots of things planned that students and staff can look forward too.

To stay up-to-date on things happening with Cournoyer and university dining, you can follow @rdmnsu_ and @maverickdining on Instagram.