Staying Healthy After College

Photo by Melissa Gerson

Photo by Melissa Gerson

By Danielle Marra

“Keeping fit is not just a fad – it’s a way of life.” That’s L.A. Fitness’s motto and many agree. So now that you’re getting ready to graduate to a life without a fully paid gym membership and meal plan, what’s the smartest route? How can you afford to stay in shape, eat healthy and still pay off those college loans? Here are a few popular stores, gyms and ways to stay healthy after college.

Are you into the organic craze that’s taken so many grocery stores by storm? Wild By Nature, located in Oceanside, Huntington, East Setauket, and Hampton Bays, although not by any means cheap, provides customers with personalized conscientiousness through its large array of cuisine options. They pride themselves in having natural, organic foods and “pure, honest to goodness fresh food for your family.” Their grocery department allows customers to choose from foods with only pure, natural ingredients and, “no hydrogenated oils, no artificial preservatives or flavors added.”

Like most students fresh out of college, your wallet may be feeling a little empty. There are other healthy options that won’t break the bank. Trader Joe’s is a grocery store “and so much more,” according to their motto. Some of their locations near Hofstra include Hewlett, Merrick, Oceanside, and Plainview. They also claim they “cut out the middleman whenever possible and pass out savings on to you in the form of terrific everyday prices,” to keep costs low. Sounds like the perfect solution to any of your grocery needs, right? At Trader Joe’s they make the customers an irresistible guarantee: Don’t like what you bought? Just take it back. Because Trader Joe’s is privately owned, their business seems a bit more personal.

While health and knowledge of where your food is coming from is a major factor in being sure you’re eating properly and healthily, college graduates may be mindful of their wallets instead of their bodies. Susan Karp, M. Ed., R.D., says that one way for students living on their own after college to save some cash is to cook their own meals. Although, there are no specific statistics regarding weight fluctuation post-graduation, Karp says that grads who live with their parents are more likely to maintain weight rather than gain it, because it is being prepared for them.

Some of the biggest dietary mistakes made by grads living on their own are; not cooking for yourself, avoiding good fats, and not eating enough fruits, vegetables, and calcium-rich foods. The foods grads do not to eat enough of – vegetables, fruits, and calcium-rich foods – also are the most essential to this age group. Karp says that perhaps one reason these food groups are so neglected is sheer cost. Vegetables are more expensive to buy and often times the convenience of fast food overpowers one’s concern for nutrition.

“Many people don’t realize that their bones are still growing,” Karp says, and that they can keep growing through age 30. Because of this, grads tend not to realize how vital calcium-rich foods are to their daily diets. Karp says cheese, for example, is good for you. Although it is high in fat, it is an excellent source of calcium. Therefore, in small portions, cheese is good choice for your daily diet.

“Fats are needed in the diet,” says Karp, “as long as they are the right kinds of fats.” The wrong kind of fat is saturated fats, which is the main dietary cause of high blood pressure and high cholesterol, according to the American Heart Association. Foods with a high level of this type of fat include chicken skin; however, chicken itself does not fall into this category. Foods containing good fats are avocados, olive oil, and cheese in small portions. A big part of keeping a healthy diet has to do with portions. Too much cheese is bad for your body. Even though it is a good source of calcium, it does have a high fat content.

So now that you have some options and new food ideas, what about exercise? Karp says that people who are looking to bulk up should not see any major change in their diets. “It’s all in strength training,” she says. “Although, people working out should have a higher protein intake, which they can achieve in foods alone.”

Karp says that vitamins can be helpful as long as you do not take more than the regimented amount per day. You should not take multiple vitamins or supplements. In general Karp advises, “get your nutrition from foods first.” She says vitamins should almost be like a safety-net and instead primarily look to fulfill our nutritional needs with food.

So, what about energy drinks? Recently the high-calorie drinks have become increasingly popular. “I cannot think of a single valid reason for anyone to ever drink a Red Bull,” Karp says, “it only adds unnecessary calories to the waist line.” Although she states that drinks like Gatorade are beneficial to athletes, less active people don’t need them at all.

While water is always the most highly recommended drink, as it is healthy and revitalizes the body in more ways than one, Karp suggests another healthy alternative to energy drinks. “Make your own soda with seltzer and a juice of choice,” she says, “or even just cut down juice with water.”

While keeping active is one of the most important elements of staying in shape, gym memberships can be expensive. Three major gyms on Long Island are World Gym, Gold’s Gym, and New York Sports Club. While all three provide each member with services specialized around their specific needs via the personal training program, their prices vary. For those commitment-phobic grads looking for a new workout spot after Hofstra’s recreational center stops allowing you in for free, you should explore your options.

New York Sports Club allows you the option of trying a short-term membership and seeing if it is the best match for you. For two weeks $20 may seem like a lot of money, but you have the opportunity to take full advantage of what could be a very generous offer. If you regularly workout, you can go to the gym up to six or seven times in those two weeks and really get your money’s worth.

Or maybe you’re done testing the waters, and you just want to sign up and be ready to go for your weekly workout routine without the fuss. While most gyms allow you to sign up for your membership online, Gold’s Gym removes the $100 enrollment fee if you do. Instead, you pay a $20 administrative fee and membership for a full year, which costs $50. Overall it’s not a bad tradeoff, and you’re still saving $80 simply by joining online.

World Gym, on the other hand, offers a bit more choice. New members can choose to either pay $30 for an entire year’s membership, or pay month-by-month. The downside to this option is that if you have trouble committing and are paying monthly membership fees, World Gym costs $30 a month unless you buy their yearly membership for the same cost. They also include “extras” in their membership packages such as tanning. With the monthly plan, tanning costs $12 a month, and is free with the yearly plan.

Now that you’re looking at the end of your college career, you have choices, especially when it comes to staying healthy. Hopefully you’ll be able to choose your job and your home but now you have some convenient options when it comes to diet and exercise.

Karp says, “it’s all a matter of time, preparation, and cost.” Be sure to take the time to examine all your options and find the smartest choice for your lifestyle and hopefully it’ll save you some green.

Published in: on January 29, 2009 at 4:16 am  Leave a Comment  

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