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Nourishing Yourself in a New Environment (August 2023)

Welcome to WVU!

To all of you starting a fresh new school year, we are glad you are here! You’ll be faced with many new things: friendships, opportunities, environment, schedules and food. Learning how to nourish yourself while being away from home can be scary, but I’m here to help ease your transition. Read on to get tips for navigating your diet, healthy eating and nutrition as the new semester takes off.

Navigating exams, studying, social groups and extracurricular activities all while trying to eat healthy can have its challenges. Many of you have a dining plan where you eat on campus at our three dining halls. Some of you commute and eat off campus and/or pack your lunch. Either way, choosing the right foods will ensure you get enough nutrition to fuel you during your long nights of studying or climbing the rock wall at the Rec Center.

I hope you will find this information helpful when it comes to eating well and getting adequate nutrition during the start of the new semester.

5 Tips for Nourishing Yourself in a New Environment

  1. Eat well-rounded meals. Snacking is great in between meals if needed, but eating a proper mixed meal is best for filling all your nutritional needs. Carbohydrates for energy, protein for tissue rebuilding and fat for brain function. These macronutrients provide many other benefits besides these three points, and we’ll get more into this topic later in the semester. For now, focus on these components in each meal and you’ll feel energized and fueled for whatever the semester has in store.

  2. Remember hydration. Often, we feel hungry when we’re actually dehydrated. While plain water is great to rehydrate, make sure you’re replenishing in the hot August temperatures with electrolytes and minerals you’ll lose sweating when moving into your home away from home or playing in a pickup basketball game. Drink enough liquids so you’re peeing light yellow. Never dark yellow or clear – these are signs of under and overhydration.

  3. Relax. We get it – your exams, study schedule and that paper you forgot about until the last minute will cause you to sweat and make you stressed. A stressed body will cause digestive upset, and this is no fun. When it comes time to sit down to eat – and I do mean, sit down to eat. Take a few deep and calming breaths before you take the first bite. Turn off distractions and focus on chewing your food fully. Eating in a calm and undistracted environment will relax your parasympathetic nervous system to allow for proper digestion so you can truly absorb the nutrients in your food. Otherwise, your sympathetic nervous system won't allow for this, and you’ll be stuck with bubble gut or other GI issues.

  4. Make sure you eat enough. Your schedule is going to be jam-packed and you’ll most likely be pulled in several directions. You need to be fueled properly to do it all! That means eating enough. Calories are a touchy subject we’ll discuss more in depth at a later time, and I don’t want you to only focus on calories as much as I do want you to focus on nutrients. While calories do matter, the nutrients matter most. Eating as many whole and fresh foods as you need (yes, you, not your roommate or your friends) is key to ensuring you’ll be nourished for whatever student life brings. This means eating to satiety and fullness.

  5. Remember the 80/20 rule. Ok, look – your life is about to get busy, and you’ll be tempted by lots of treats both on campus and off campus. Treats are great – we all love our flying WV cookies. But I want you to remember what treats are; something that is occasional, and not routine. Eat well 80% of the time and treat yourself the other 20%. 80% for body nourishment, 20% for soul nourishment. It matters.

As your campus dietitian, I am here for any dietary and nutritional concerns you may have. I help with GI issues, food allergies, eating according to any preexisting health conditions and concerns, intuitive eating habits, nutritional interventions for disordered eating behaviors, and learning how to fuel yourself appropriately. To schedule an appointment with me, please complete the Nutrition Counseling and Allergy Concerns request form.

Check out this link for all on-campus dining options:

I wish you all the best of luck to the start of the new semester. Let’s go Mountaineers!

Leighann Scott, WVU Dining Services Dietitian