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Back to School Tips (August 2022)

Welcome back, Mountaineers! I hope everyone had a great summer. As we adjust to being back on campus and enduring the Morgantown traffic, we also are adjusting to new schedules and new eating habits. In many cases, our first year of college is the first time we are free to make our own food choices and have to learn to prepare and plan our day around food. That can influence our diets to change significantly.

This month’s blog will be all about how to use nutrition and wellness tips to reach our full academic potential. Whether we are grabbing some food from the Mountainlair or cooking at home after working out at the Rec Center, we can use all kinds of delicious foods to nourish our bodies during this phase in our life.

Foods for Success

During those long classes and study sessions at the library, it’s important to keep up a nutritious diet if we want to improve our academic performance.

A 2018 study showed that children who were at nutritional risk in terms of overall energy and nutrient intake had significantly worse grades in comparison to children who had adequate energy intakes 1. Although the study subjects were children and not college students, the relationship between hunger and academic functioning is clear, which is why it’s important to keep ourselves nourished during the day and avoid long hunger spells.

As college students, we face a challenge where we have to choose meals based on the availability and accessibility, appeal and price of the food as well as other factors, making it hard to even find food to eat let alone food with a high nutrient content 2.

It’s easy to get too busy with classes and homework and forget to eat, but it’s important to remember that we need food for our body and mind to work efficiently. Learning and health are mutual 3.

Macro and Micronutrients

Eating enough food during the day is vital to keep energy levels high for performance. Whether you are playing a sport or focusing during class, you need energy to do your best. Let’s talk a little bit about macro and micronutrients.

Macronutrients are our main components of different tissues. And together they amount to the total calorie intake 4. Macronutrients include carbohydrates, lipids and protein. Carbohydrates should make up most of your daily energy.

Some great food sources of carbohydrates include whole grains, fruits, vegetables and beans. Some of my favorite protein sources are poultry, dairy, beans and nuts. Lipid food sources include olive oil, salad dressings, avocados and some fatty fish. Some foods have sources of all three macronutrients.

Micronutrients, on the other hand, are the much smaller nutrients such as iron, vitamin C, calcium, zinc and more. Micronutrients do not contribute significantly to calorie intake, but they are very important for health and vital functions 4.

Iron deficiency is the most common type of micronutrient malnutrition, and it can significantly impact your health 5. Women are even more at risk than men 5. Symptoms of iron deficiency include extreme fatigue and weakness, which can make classes and events even more challenging.

Research shows that failure to eat foods with essential nutrients is linked to lower grades and poor attendance rates 3. Getting enough macro and micronutrients will help give you the energy to succeed in college!

Documenting Your Diet

One way of monitoring your diet in an efficient way is keeping a food diary.

A food diary is a great way to track the foods you eat and how it makes you feel physically and emotionally. By logging your meals, you are practicing a form of mindful eating and learning more about your relationship with food. Mindful eating is a useful technique that prioritizes listening to your body and learning the difference between eating because of physiological hunger or psychological turbulence 6.

Mindful eating is a great way to learn how to eat when we are hungry and stop when we are full. If we focus all our attention on the meal as we eat, we can log how we feel and what we are thinking. This practice can help us learn about why we are eating, what we are eating and how our emotions tie into our eating habits. It can even help us figure out if we are experiencing an intolerance or allergy to a certain food.

Managing Stress

Being away from home for the first time and taking on new responsibilities in college can be very stressful. That stress can cause headaches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, problems sleeping and more 7.

Everyone has unique coping mechanisms for stress, and some coping mechanisms can lead to further issues. We all know alcohol, tobacco and drugs can cause more harm than good. Those methods tend to keep the body in a stressed state and cause additional issues 7.

It’s important to learn a few tips for stress management that can help reduce stress in a positive way without being detrimental to your well-being. Research has shown that eating a healthy balanced diet can actually decrease cortisol levels, the primary stress hormone 6.

A few ways I reduce stress on campus is by organizing my thoughts in a journal or planner, eating a nutritious diet, or taking a break from studying to enjoy a hobby.

If you target the source of your stress you may find it easier to tackle that directly. For instance, if you are stressed about your chemistry grade, going to get help from the tutors at the Chemistry Learning Center may ease your mind.

Physical Activity

Another great way to reduce stress is physical activity, which is known to lower blood pressure and stress hormone levels 7.

Each week adults are recommended 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity and 2 days of muscle strengthening activity 8. That may sound difficult to meet but when we consider that physical activity is just body movement, the goal seems more realistic.

Although we spend a lot of time sedentary in classes and in front of computers, there are plenty of things we can do to reach that level of physical activity.

Small changes like taking the stairs instead of the elevator and walking to meet friends on campus instead of driving can make a big difference in how you feel. Even cleaning up your apartment or dorm counts for great physical activity.

There are plenty of fun options for physical activity at the Rec Center, from swimming to ping pong to personal training. Bring a friend along and you’ll be surprised how much fun physical activity can be!

I’m hoping these nutrition and wellness tips will inspire you to tackle the new semester and reach academic success.

Take it easy!

By Graduate Assistant, Carmalyn Fitz

Carmalyn Fitz


  1. Kleinman RE, Hall S, Green H, Korzec-Ramirez D, Patton K, Pagano ME, Murphy JM. Diet, breakfast, and academic performance in children. Ann Nutr Metab. 2002;46 Suppl 1(0 1):24-30. doi: 10.1159/000066399. PMID: 12428078; PMCID: PMC3275817.
  2. Deliens T, Clarys P, De Bourdeaudhuij I, Deforche B. Determinants of eating behavior in university students: a qualitative study using focus group discussions. BMC Public Health. 2014 Jan 18;14:53. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-14-53. PMID: 24438555; PMCID: PMC3905922.
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  4. Savarino G, Corsello A, Corsello G. Macronutrient balance and micronutrient amounts through growth and development. Ital J Pediatr. 2021 May 8;47(1):109. doi: 10.1186/s13052-021-01061-0. PMID: 33964956; PMCID: PMC8106138.
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  6. Stress and Health. (2021, January 15). The Nutrition Source.
  7. The Effects of Stress on Your Body. (2021, December 8). WebMD.
  8. Move More; Sit Less. (2022, June 2). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.