By: Marcelle Jones and Katie West
Life as a College Student
College is a wonderful, yet challenging part of your life. In prioritizing your grades, sports, family, friends, and more, you can sometimes forget to prioritize yourself. In fact, over 77% of college students reported that they experience moderate to severe psychological symptoms of distress.1 Some ways to prioritize yourself can include aiming for seven to nine hours of sleep a night, reducing stress by talking to loved ones or speaking with staff at the Georgia State University Counseling Center, and/or eating a well-balanced diet filled with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and healthy fats.
One study2 found that only 23.4% of college students consumed fruits and vegetables every day. The same study2 found that 33.3% of college students eat less than three meals a day. Why is this information important? Well, a healthy, well-balanced diet can improve brain function by reducing inflammation and stabilizing your stress hormones.3
Why is it Essential to Build a Balanced Plate?
A well-balanced plate of healthy carbohydrates, fats, and protein can give us long-lasting energy throughout our day. The USDA MyPlate recommends making half of your plate fruits and vegetables, half of your grains whole grains, adding a protein source, and switching to low-fat or non-fat dairy.4
How to Build a Balanced Plate
- Step 1: Add one carbohydrate source and aim for half or more of your grains coming from whole grains. This can include whole-wheat pasta, whole-grain bread, whole-grain tortilla, brown rice, and beans.*
- Step 2: Try to make vegetables the star of your meal by filling half or more of your plate with vegetables. Some vegetables can include green leafy salads, broccoli, asparagus, carrots, and more.
- Step 3: Add a protein source. This can include chicken, fish, beef, beans*, tofu, and tempeh.
- Step 4: Add a healthy fat. Healthy fats can include avocados, fish oil, nut butters, nuts, seeds, and olive oil.
*Beans are a healthy carb choice and a protein source in one!
How to Build a Balanced Plate on Georgia State’s Campus
Follow steps 1-4 at any restaurant on Georgia State’s campus!
- Moe’s Southwest Grill: Build your own balanced bowl or burrito at Moes. Some protein sources can include chicken, steak, pork, ground beef, beans, or tofu. Carbohydrate sources can include rice or tortilla. Try to choose a whole wheat tortilla to ensure you’re getting in some grains and fiber! You can also add some beans for additional fiber. Load up on veggies, and don’t forget to add a healthy fat like avocado.
- Cafe Kulture: Try vegan-friendly options like the “Baby Hulk” avocado & chickpea toast, “Mi Casa” kale salad, and “Best Life” spinach wrap. These dishes are balanced with healthy carbs, fats, proteins, and veggies like leafy greens, beans, and avocados that will keep you feeling energized. Try adding a protein source to the “Mi Casa” kale salad to make it even more balanced! All of the meals are between $5-$16.
- Panda Express: This budget-friendly restaurant is great for busy college students. To build a balanced plate here, try building a bowl with a steamed brown rice base to reduce sodium and increase fiber. The grilled chicken teriyaki bowl with ½ steamed brown rice and ½ SuperGreens combines healthy carbs, fats, proteins, and even adds some healthy greens. This meal comes out to $7.90.
- Highland Bakery: Thai peanut salad is featured on this menu. This salad combines protein like grilled chicken or tofu, carbs from rice noodles, healthy fats from its peanut sauce, and colorful veggies including shredded carrots, red peppers, and mixed greens that boost the antioxidants in the dish. The Thai peanut salad comes out to $12.99.
- Dua Vietnamese: This authentic Vietnamese restaurant provides many healthy options including the “Lemon Grass Chicken”. This dish features grilled lemongrass chicken as a protein, rice as a carbohydrate, and cucumber, tomatoes, and salad as its vegetables. This meal comes out to $7.25.
What do all of these meals have in common?
They all include a carbohydrate, vegetable, protein, and healthy fat. Try to balance all of your meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Check out a new spot on Georgia State’s campus, and see if you can balance your plate! Send us a picture of your tasty, balanced plates at @gsurecreation on Instagram!