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Young Adult Nutrition: How to Make Food Accessible

We spend our adolescence dreaming of the independence adulthood will bring—mulling over the city we will move to, the college we will attend, the trades we will adopt, and the apartment we will discover ourselves in. Despite entering a new season, young adults still exist in developing bodies. We spend so much time preparing for the hypotheticals of young adulthood. But we forget to prepare for the inevitabilities—we have to begin caring for ourselves in our newfound independence. One facet of taking care of yourself as a young adult includes taking care of your body via nutritional health—supplying our bodies with the essential vitamins and minerals it needs to thrive. Below we will discuss four simple habits that support the nutritional needs of young adults as they adapt to this season of life.

Healthy Nutrition Habits for Young Adults

Whether you have already started your nutritional journey—or are simply looking for a first step in this new season—remember that your health journey and nutritional environment is unique. Implement what resonates with you, your lifestyle and your individual journey.

Plan Ahead

Whether you are a college student subject to short passing periods between lectures or a trade student drained from working long hours, we tend to faulter in our nutritional journeys during time crunches or moments of exhaustion. Preparing meals and snacks to eat during busy moments allows us to stay on track with our nutritional goals.

Meal Prep

When you are in a time crunch between classes, having a prepared meal ready to go will allow you to stay consistent with your nutritional goals. Meal prepping simply refers to preparing meals in advance, portioning them out, and storing them to create on-the-go meals. This method supports young adults that do not have time to prepare three meals every day. You can meal prep breakfast, lunch, or dinner…or all three!

Young adults new to food preparation and intentional consumption may not know what to meal prep—that is okay! Consider prepping the following nutrient-dense whole food meals:

  • Chicken: provides protein alongside Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12 and selenium
  • Fresh Vegetables: bell peppers provide Vitamin A, Vitamin C and iron
  • Nuts: almonds and cashews provide healthy fats
  • Oats: rolled oats provide Vitamin E, iron, selenium and zinc
  • Rice: brown rice provides essential dietary fiber
  • Roasted Vegetables: broccoli provides Vitamin C, Vitamin K and potassium
  • Seeds: pumpkin and sunflower seeds provide Vitamin E and magnesium
  • Whole Fruit: bananas provide Vitamin B6 and potassium

Meal prep varies. Remember to do what works for you, your nutritional goals, and lifestyle.

Smart Snacks

Preparing nutrient-dense snacks will allow you to stay consistent with your nutritional goals. Snacks allow you to support your body—providing adequate amounts of food and essential nutrients—throughout the day when you do not have the time or resources to eat a full meal. Try to create smart snacks that support your nutritional needs and work well within your environment.

Similar to meal preparation, young adults new to intentional consumption may not know what smart snacks to prepare—that is okay! Consider prepping the following nutrient-dense snacks:

  • Apples
  • Dried Fruit
  • Fresh Veggies
  • Hummus
  • Pita Chips
  • Rice Cakes
  • Trail Mix

Your college course, trade school, and work environments vary as young adults. Prepare snacks that suit your unique environment and individual nutrition needs.

Strive for Balance

As you enter young adulthood and begin to take care of your own health and wellness, you will likely make mistakes or poor decisions—and that is okay! This period allows you to transition from adolescent to adult. We rarely approach nutrition sustainably when we begin to prioritize health and intentional consumption; we make mistakes. Strive for balance as opposed to stringency when establishing your nutritional routine.

The 80-20 Mindset

Developing bodies cannot thrive in restrictive environments. The 80-20 diet functions on this fact. This nutritional model functions as follows:

  • 80: eighty percent of meals should consist of nutrient-dense whole foods
  • 20: twenty percent of meals should satisfy cravings within moderation

This model suggests that we ought to prioritize healthy, nutrient-dense whole foods. However, it also supports the consumption of our natural cravings within moderation. Moderation is subjective—consume cravings so long as they do not negatively impede body function and feeling.

This supports balance within the nutritional lifestyles of a young adult. Supplying your body with essential vitamins and minerals the majority of the time supports overall body health and wellness. But allowing yourself to indulge intermittently prevents the desire to binge on restricted foods. If you struggle to identify what foods constitute the 80 and what foods constitute the 20, ask yourself the following:

  • How does my body feel after eating this?
  • Do I feel energized? Or depleted?
  • Did this food provide me with essential vitamins and minerals?

Focus on the way foods make you feel and their nutritional content. Avoid rhetoric refers to foods as good or bad—healthy or unhealthy. Our nutritional needs vary. Focus on foods that serve you!

Exist Within Your Budget

You likely do not have a large budget to fund all of your health and wellness desires as a young adult. Therefore, it is important to exist within your budget when establishing nutritional routines and fulfilling nutritional needs.

Community Cooking

Grocery shopping within limited budgets proves difficult—for even those adjusted to adulthood. Community cooking may support you as you pursue intentional consumption on a strict budget. Investing time into peers and creating a community of young adults that value health, wellness, and nutrition will allow you to stretch the limited budget a touch further because you can buy in bulk as a community.

Buying in bulk reduces price per serving. Grocery stores offer produce, grains, pastas, beans and legumes in bulk. Purchasing nutrient-dense whole foods in bulk and splitting the cost evenly amongst those in your respective cooking community will allow you to increase your access to essential vitamins and minerals on your restricted budget.

This method increases access to nutrient-dense whole foods on a set income.

Prioritize Hydration

Water, water, water! Though this concept may feel redundant, developing bodies require proper hydration. Drinking water promotes internal wellness. It benefits every body system in a young adult.

It is generally recommended to consume 64 ounces—or eight cups—of water per day.

Average individuals may also use body weight to determine water intake: ounces of water consumed equates to your body weight in kilograms.

Example: if you weigh 70 kilograms, aim to drink 70 ounces of water per day.

If you are struggling to reach your water intake goal, consider implementing the chug method. On average, one second of chugging equates to one ounce of water. If you do a 10-second chug seven times throughout the day, you will likely reach the daily recommended value.

Quick Facts

One facet of taking care of yourself as a young adult includes taking care of your body via nutritional health—supplying your body with the essential vitamins and minerals it needs to thrive. Today we discussed four simple habits that promote nutrient sufficiency in young adults and their developing bodies.

  • Plan Ahead: prepare nutrient-dense meals that you can take on-the-go
  • Strive for Balance: avoid food restriction and prioritize moderation
  • Exist Within Your Budget: buy in bulk and share food expenses
  • Hydrate: generally recommended to consume 64 ounces of water per day

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