National Nutrition Month: Tips for Eating Smart in the Dining Halls

By Anne Widga, University Health Center dietitian

Making healthy choices can be challenging when facing a buffet of foods at the dining halls. It’s tempting to go back for second or even third helpings, and of course, the dessert bar always looks delicious! If you aren’t careful, things can get out of hand quickly, which can lead to unbalanced nutrition or unwanted weight gain.

Here are a few ways to make smart eating choices on campus:

  1. Make a plan before you eat. Use the UNL Dining Services phone app or website to discover what food is being served in which dining halls or scope out the food when you arrive. Before filling up your plate, pause for a moment to consider your hunger level and what you’ve already eaten for the day.
  2. Get to know the dining hall staff. If you have a food allergy or intolerance or are someone who needs a specific nutrition plan to manage a health condition, these friendly folks can be your best resource. They can answer your questions, save you time and minimize your frustration when choosing what to eat.
  3. Follow the MyPlate model. You need foods from each food group (fruits, veggies, dairy, grains, healthy fats and protein) every day to give your body the nutrients it needs to function effectively. This might mean a trip to more than one area in the dining hall, but it’s worth it.
  4. Take advantage of the salad bar. Eating fruit and vegetables daily is important, and the salad bar can be a great place to stock up. Try different types of greens and other veggies for variety. Add a source of protein (eggs, ham, chicken, tofu, etc.) to make it a complete meal. Adding a single serving of fat such as salad dressing, cheese or sunflower seeds will help slow the salad’s digestion to keep you feeling full and satisfied longer.
  5. Don’t be afraid to try new things. If dining hall food is becoming boring or monotonous to you, add some variety by going to a different dining hall or trying a new menu item for the first time. Your tastes are continuously evolving, so you might discover you like a food you once hated.
  6. Eat breakfast. Skipping breakfast—or any meal for that matter—can sabotage your success. You won’t think as clearly or fully absorb what you learn in class if you don’t eat.It can also lower your blood sugar, which can lead to overeating and can negatively affect your mood. Breakfast doesn’t have to be huge. Keep it simple with a piece of toast, yogurt or milk and fruit.
  7. Make wise beverage choices. No one needs the added sugar found in sodas. A glass of water or milk is a better choice as is unsweetened coffee or tea in moderation.
  8. Limit your second helpings. It takes about 20 minutes for our brain to know if you feel full or not, so eat slowly and mindfully. If you do this and still feel hungry, try to make your second helping a veggie or serving of protein. Not skipping meals also helps curb the tendency to overeat.
  9. Enjoy the moment. Don’t be afraid to pick a day — maybe once a week — when you know your favorite dessert or treat is being offered, and plan it into your meal. Never allowing yourself to indulge is unnecessary and can set you up for feelings of guilt when you do have one now and then. Try not to worry how many calories your meal is and whether dessert will ruin your diet. Look forward to your mealtime as a necessary diversion from studies and time to spend with friends.

Protect Your Smile: World Oral Health Day 2017

By Kelly Nathan, University Health Center registered dental hygienist

We all want a great smile, and oral hygiene is the key. It plays an important role in not only protecting your mouth from tooth stains and decay, gum disease and other oral health issues, but also preventing heart disease, bone lose, strokes and more.

In celebration of World Oral Health Day 2017, we’ve compiled these tips to help you protect your smile:

  • Brush with the proper technique. Your toothbrush should be at a 45-degree angle against your teeth. Brush gently in a circular motion. Be sure to get all sides of your teeth and tongue. Do this twice a day for at least two minutes each time with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Check out this video by the American Dental Association for more information.
  • Change your toothbrush once every three months or when the bristles go out of shape.
  • Don’t forget to floss. There are some areas where your brush can’t reach. This is where flossing can help. Floss gently by guiding floss between teeth, then curve it to make a “C” shape and wipe up and down each side of the tooth. Do this once a day. For more information, check out this how-to video.
  • Quit using tobacco products. This will reduce your chances of gum disease, tooth staining and tooth loss. If you need help quitting, stop by the University Health Center for a free tobacco cessation kit.
  • Stay hydrated to avoid plaque accumulation and gum disease.
  • Schedule a dental checkup at least once a year. University of Nebraska-Lincoln students, faculty or staff members and their dependents over age 16 are eligible to use the University Health Center Dental Clinic. Call 402.472.7495 to schedule an appointment.
  • If you have a toothache or notice other dental symptoms, make an appointment with a dentist immediately. He or she can diagnose the underlying cause before it turns into a greater issue.


Advice for a Fun, Safe Spring Break

We know what you’re thinking — only one more day until spring break! Whether you plan to fly to a tropical destination, head to the mountains to hit the slopes or go home for some quality time with friends and family, here are a few tips to ensure you have a fun and safe spring break:

On the Road

  • Driving while tired can have similar effects on your body as drunk driving. Trade drivers often or stop for the night.
  • Check the laws of your destination (e.g., open container, cell phone use).
  • Distracted driving is dangerous. Have passengers navigate, control music and text/call for the driver.

Sun and Slope Safety

  • Sunburns don’t just happen at the beach. Always use sunscreen and lip balm with at least SPF 15 and reapply often.
  • Protect your eyes with lenses that block out UV rays A and B.
  • Drink extra water: Sun exposure and altitude can be dehydrating

Condom Sense

  • Condoms help prevent pregnancy and STDs. Have them handy even if you don’t plan on being sexually active — a friend might need it!
  • Use water- or silicone-based lubricant for increased sensation and decreased chances of condoms breaking.
  • Sexual contact without consent is sexual assault. Being drunk may make your partner unable to consent.

Personal Safety

  • Have a plan before you go out. Will everyone go back to the hotel room together or are some staying with a friend? Make it specific and stick to it.
  • Know a friend or family member’s contact information in case you can’t access your phone.
  • Consider the risks associated with what you share online while you are out of town.
  • Don’t drink anything you didn’t see mixed/poured or that has been left alone.

Safer Drinking

  • If you drink, eat before and while you do it. High protein foods slow the absorption of alcohol.
  • Before going out, make a plan for getting home safely (e.g., sober driver, taxi company or ride share service).
  • If you drink, alternate alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks throughout the night to stay hydrated and pace yourself.

For more wellness tips, follow our blog. We post weekly about topics YOU care about. To request a blog post topic, email

Top 10 Alcohol and Party Safety Tips

by Alexandra Dahl, University Health Center health promotions analyst

Drinking has long been a popular activity for college students nationwide. While the safest option—and legal restriction for those under 21—is obviously abstinence, this may not be realistic for all.

Whether or not you plan to drink, take time to educate yourself on safe alcohol consumption so that you and your friends have fun and stay safe.

Here are our top 10 alcohol and party safety tips and tricks: 

  1. Make a plan before you go out. Buddy up with a friend and stick with them. If you’re going out with a group, make sure the entire group stays together throughout the night.
  2. Eat a protein-filled snack before drinking. This slows the absorption of alcohol into your body.
  3. Watch your drink be made or make it yourself. This ensures no one is tampering with your drink, and it helps you know how much alcohol you are consuming.
  4. Drink a cup of water in between each alcoholic drink. This helps you pace yourself and stay hydrated.
  5. Keep track of how many drinks you have consumed throughout the night. Alcohol takes a while to process, so this practice will keep you from getting too drunk too quickly.
  6. Never leave your drink unattended. You cannot be sure what will happen to it while you’re away. If you lose sight of your drink, get a new one.
  7. Remember there is no way to “sober up” quickly. The tricks you may have heard about drinking coffee or taking a cold shower don’t work. It just takes time—about one hour per alcoholic drink (standard size) consumed.
  8. Know the signs of alcohol poisoning. If you or a friend begin to look blue or pale, experience nausea or vomiting, pass out or just don’t feel right in general, it’s best to get help. Do not put the person to bed to “sleep it off” or leave the person unattended—this could be dangerous.
  9. Know University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s alcohol policy
  10. No matter what you do, don’t drive. Designate a driver or call an Uber, Lyft or cab. Do this even if you’ve only had a few drinks. Alcohol affects everyone differently, so it’s best to just avoid driving.

On a final note, don’t drink only because you assume everyone’s doing it. The results of the fall 2016 National College Health Assessment II survey revealed UNL students perceived 93.4 percent of their peers drink when, in reality, only 60.5 percent drink. Don’t feel pressured to drink if you don’t want to—it should be your personal choice.

Want to learn more about safe drinking habits? Schedule a University Health Center alcohol safety presentation with our peer educators for your class, registered student organization, residence hall, Greek house, etc. For more information, contact Health Promotion & Outreach by calling 402.472.5000 or visiting

National Nutrition Month: Beware of Hidden Sugars

By Anne Widga, University Health Center dietitian

In honor of National Nutrition Month, we’ll provide several healthy eating tips for college life on our blog over the next few weeks. In today’s post, we focus on sugar.

Most of us get too many calories from sugars on an average day. This can cause weight gain and chronic health problems, which is one reason why many dietitians recommend people reduce their general sugar intake for a healthier lifestyle.

Unfortunately, eating less sugar isn’t as simple as cutting desserts or soda from your diet.

Sugar is added to many processed foods and beverages by food manufacturers to enhance taste and prolong shelf life. For example, did you know fruit juices, energy and sports drinks, BBQ sauce, packaged cereals, pasta sauces, flavored yogurts and crackers can pack a punch of sugar in every serving? Even breads and frozen meals can have high sugar content. Don’t forget that some people add sugar to their cereal, coffee or tea. All of this can add up fast!

If you’re serious about limiting your sugar intake, here are four realistic steps to help you reach your goal:

  1. Pay attention to the ingredient list. The Nutrition Facts label doesn’t tell you how much of a food’s sugar content is natural or added during processing. The best place to find this information is in the ingredients list. The items listed first are the primary ingredients. As you examine this list, watch out for sugars called by other names: corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, honey, maple syrup, molasses, sucrose, etc. These are added sugars and, when calculated together, could easily be the first ingredients on the list!
  2. Choose a piece of fruit over a processed dessert. Fruits have natural sugar, which is better for you than added sugar. They also have fiber and important vitamins and minerals that the body needs. If fruits don’t satisfy your sweet tooth right away, give it time. The more you reduce added sugar from your diet, the more natural sugar will taste sweet and satisfying.
  3. Drink more water. If you’re a natural soda or juice drinker, this may take time. Try substituting one sweetened drink a day with water and increase that number by one a week.
  4. Enjoy sugar in moderation. If you completely abstain from your favorite sweet treat, you may find yourself overeating later. It’s OK to indulge every once in a while. If it helps, consider planning your treat into your diet that week; it may be easier to eat healthy knowing you plan to reward yourself with a cookie or candy bar later in the week.

Want to learn more about eating well? Schedule an appointment with the University Health Center dietitian by calling 402.472.5000. Students who pay student fees get their first session at no additional cost.

How to Catch More ZZZs in College

By Kirsten Licht, University Health Center health promotions analyst

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard that sleep is important.


But why is it important? Because without it, your memory, cognition and motivation can suffer. The benefits of quality, consistent sleep can include:

  • Mood regulation
  • Healthy emotional responses – You won’t be as irritated or angry when you get enough sleep.
  • Better decision-making – Our decision-making abilities are improved after a good night of sleep. There is a phenomenon called decision fatigue — this mean the more decisions we have to make in a day, the worse we are at making them. Decision fatigue makes us more susceptible to temptation and more likely to engage in reckless behavior. Sleep resets our decision-making abilities back to optimal levels and restores our willpower and resolve.
  • Improved relationships with others
  • Stress management
  • Improved immune system – This means you won’t be as likely to get sick and miss class.
  • Metabolic function – If we aren’t getting enough sleep, glucose metabolism is impaired and the hormones that makes us feel full (leptin) or hungry (ghrelin) are not regulated.

Not only is sleep important for the benefits listed above, but also because, when poor sleep habits persist over time, it can cause serious health problems. Yikes!

College students need an average of 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, but that is often easier said than done because of:

  • Academic pressures
  • Time management issues
  • Stress
  • Balancing academic and social lives
  • Over-commitment

Although a recent study found that college students aren’t as sleep-deprived as is commonly assumed, there is still much room for improvement. The more you practice healthy sleep habits and make a conscious effort to sleep the recommended amount each night, the better you will feel.

Practical Tips for Improved Sleep

  • Create a realistic sleep schedule (A time will you go to bed and wake up each day).
  • Plan ahead and protect your sleep time by minimizing other late night demands.
  • Develop a relaxing bedtime routine.
  • Try not to drink caffeinated beverages after lunch.
  • Keep your bedroom as comfortable as possible (Dark, quiet, clean and a comfortable temperature).
  • Use your bed for sleeping and sex only (Not as a place to study or watch TV).

Take a (Short) Power Nap

Strategic napping is a great way to rejuvenate the brain! The benefits of napping are directly tied to the length of your nap. Naps 10-30 minutes in length are best for increasing productivity, cognitive function and memory consolidation. After 30 minutes of napping, you are more likely to feel groggy, tired and irritable.

Be Wary of Alcohol

Alcohol has long been known to reduce REM sleep, the state in which most dreams happen and during which memories are stored and learning occurs. While alcohol may help induce sleep, overall it is more disruptive to sleep, particularly in the second half of the night. Additionally, alcohol often comes with staying up later than normal, which will also negatively affect sleep patterns.

People who get enough sleep are less likely to binge drink. A study published in the February 2015 journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research shows that sleep issues can actually predict alcohol use later on. (Source: Prospective Relationship Between Poor Sleep and Substance-Related Problems in a National Sample of Adolescent,

Get a Free Sleep Kit

If you need help sleeping, stop by the Health Promotion & Outreach office in the lower level of the University Health Center to grab a free sleep kit, which includes a sleep mask, tea, ear plugs and more. Only while supplies last!

Understand the Hidden Signs of an Eating Disorder

By Heather Patterson Meyer, PsyD, MAT, Counseling and Psychological Services licensed psychologist and Eating Disorders Treatment Team coordinator

There are many myths out there about eating disorders, so it’s no wonder that it can be difficult to truly understand the risks and warning signs of an eating disorder.

Unlike what some people assume, eating disorders are not limited to a particular age group, gender, race, sexual orientation or other identifier. They can affect anyone. It’s also important to recognize that eating disorders are not a choice but a mental illness that develops over time. People with eating disorders did not “bring it on themselves.” Eating disorders are not limited to anorexia, but they also can include ARFID, binge eating disorder, bulimia, pica, rumination disorder and other unspecified feeding or eating disorder. Understanding all of this will help you better recognize warning signs of an eating disorder.

While there are many signs, here is a list of more subtle ones that often slip by unnoticed:

  • Excessively looking in the mirror
  • Negatively commenting on your physical appearance
  • Wearing baggy clothes to hide your body shape
  • No longer eating with friends or family
  • Consuming caffeine to suppress your appetite
  • Constantly counting calories and/or micronutrients
  • Excessively chewing before swallowing
  • Taking a long time to eat
  • Obsessing over “clean eating
  • Consuming fewer calories in order to drink more alcohol
  • Frequently visiting nutrition websites
  • Spending hours exercising and obsessing over calories burned
  • Becoming upset if an exercise routine is disrupted and eating less to compensate
  • Using diet shakes, pills, teas, etc.
  • Losing interest in previously enjoyed activities.

If you or a loved one is exhibiting these behaviors, it could be a hidden sign of an eating disorder. Help is available. The UHC Eating Disorders Treatment Team specializes in helping individuals struggling with eating disorders or disordered eating attitudes and behaviors. They offer individual counseling, support and therapy groups, nutritional counseling, medical evaluations and more. To talk to a member of the team, call 402-472-7450. You can also get help by calling the NEDA Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

For a full list of eating disorder warning signs, visit the Remuda Ranch website.

Also be sure to read Monday’s blog post about ways you can support Eating Disorders Awareness Week and help end the stigma surrounding eating disorders.