Campus Eating: For the Moody Foodie

My most common dining hall dilemma: to walk inside, find a table, sit down, and have absolutely no idea what I want to eat. This indecision so often leads to the inevitable conclusion that the dining hall has absolutely nothing worth eating, and that I will leave unsatisfied or starved. While the latter is quite unlikely, I’ve always thought it would be worthwhile to have a guide which helps to link your mood to your stomach, also referred to as Foods to Suit Your Moods.

When sluggish and in need of energy to get you through the day, I suggest adding one or more of the following foods to your meal: chocolate milk, peanut butter, apples, bananas, green tea and honey. They say chocolate milk is the best thing to drink after hitting the gym. A cold glass of chocolate milk is not only refreshing, it also contains many important vitamins and nutrients such as calcium, protein, vitamin D and, most importantly, chocolate. Peanut butter, or any type of nut butter, is another great energy booster. It’s healthy, tasty and can accompany so many different foods. I always keep a jar of peanut butter in my room to spread on apple slices or eat with a banana. For sugar cravings, honey is always a great go-to condiment with apples and bananas, on toast, or in tea. Last but not least, a cup of green tea is a great way to fulfill any caffeine requirements. It has more antioxidants than black tea and does not stain your teeth. (I drink a lot of black tea and am now quite a loyal consumer of Crest White Strips.) The trick to energizing foods is to eat something light and relatively substantial, though this can prove to be a hard balance.

When feeling overwhelmed and needing to relive anxiety, opt for complex carbohydrates – also known in food form as potatoes, whole wheat breads, pasta, beans and cereal. The science behind this theory is kind of complicated, but basically carbohydrates release insulin into the bloodstream which is eventually converted into serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is said to induce calming feelings. So when entering the cafeteria with butterflies in your stomach go for a hearty bean soup and some wheat toast, or a bowl of pasta with tomato sauce. Try to avoid sugary foods and caffeine because they tend to amplify anxious feelings.

When feeling a little, um, off kilter from weekend activities, I go for orange juice, caffeine, bagels, English muffins and bananas. Things to avoid are eggs (may induce nausea), sweet foods like pancakes, waffles and yogurt. The science behind all this is quite simple. Hydration is a must and so orange juice, water, tea and coffee are all good options. Fluids also help to dilute any leftover bi-products left in your stomach. Eating bananas helps to replenish electrolytes and potassium—and the fruit is easily digested. Caffeine is sometimes essential just for that extra kick of energy to get you through an afternoon of Sunday studying at the library.

When you’re just plain hungry (quite a common mood) and in need of something yummy, I have many suggestions which are college-campus accessible. If you’re famished and craving a specific food it’s best to go eat it as soon as possible because chances are, if you substitute your craving for something less scrumptious, you’ll end up eating whatever you wanted later on anyways. Otherwise, if craving something savory, I suggest “healthy” pizza. Pizza has always been categorized as an unhealthy food. However it really depends on what you put on your pizza; add lots of vegetables, chicken or sausage and cheese and you’ve got a delicious and very satisfying meal. If craving something sweet, my personal preferences are quality cupcakes or cookies. Well-made cupcakes can improve almost any situations and are so needed to celebrate midterm completion or frost ridden blues. In the event that cupcakes are not around, a warm cookie can be just as good. Bake Pillsbury cookies or warm up a pre-packaged biscuit to satisfy your sugar needs. My general rule when feeling starved: eat any warm food that’ll improve your mood.

For the moody foodie in all of us, next time you enter the dining hall with too much on your mind, try to match your moods to your foods and eat with a purpose.

Originally posted on Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

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