College is hard enough balancing schoolwork, a social life and sleep, and proper nutrition is sometimes one of the things that slips through the cracks for an on-the-go student.
Samantha Rodriguez, a Trinity alumna based in Houston, knows the struggle. Now, Rodriguez runs health food social media accounts, as well as a blog, where she provides recipes and inspiration for proper nutrition.
Rodriguez graduated from Trinity in 2014, majoring in communication with a minor in communications management. During the summer before her senior year, Rodriguez interned with the Southtown Farmers and Ranchers Market, where she was responsible for their digital presence.
â€œEach Saturday I had the opportunity to talk to the vendors and learn about the wide variety of produce that you donâ€™t typically see in a grocery store â€” pattypan squash, for example. Since I was responsible for coming up with compelling photos to help showcase the market online, I ended up following food bloggers and Instagram â€˜foodiesâ€™ to learn how other people presented something as simple as corn in a way that made the produce look exciting and vibrant,â€ Rodriguez said.
This internship led Rodriguez to her current position at Whole Foods, and also inspired her to get involved personally in the online health food scene.
â€œThis experience led me to focus my senior capstone on building a nutrition-based education campaign for a nonprofit in San Antonio â€” which led me to get a job in Houston post-graduation at a local health food startup, which then led me to Whole Foods Market,â€ Rodriguez said. â€œAll the while I have maintained my health food focused social media accounts, which hopefully inspire others to adopt healthier diets.â€
Anyone who has eaten at Mabee Dining Hall recently can relate to the struggle of balancing healthy eating and taste, but, according to Rodriguez, Mabee has improved immensely as a place where the health-conscious can eat without guilt.
â€œBack in 2010, when Mabee didnâ€™t even have a salad bar, when I returned for my sophomore year the dining hall had been adapted to include a salad bar. I remember being so excited about the idea of unlimited produce,â€ Rodriguez said. â€œHowever, I could see how the buffet could be a challenge for those who struggle with portion control.â€
For students with access to a kitchen, Rodriguez gave some advice for eating healthy.
â€œMeal prep, meal prep, meal prep! When I lived off campus during the summers, and for my senior year, I learned that the easiest way to save money was to purchase my groceries twice a week and cook my meals ahead of time.â€
Rodriguez especially encourages students not to be afraid of frozen produce.
â€œSome staples in my kitchen during my senior year included white rice, frozen vegetables like broccoli and stir-fry mixes from Trader Joeâ€™s, along with frozen fish fillets and chicken breasts. My roommate and I would make large batches of rice in our rice cooker, and then pack containers filled with veggies and pan-seared fish or chicken to take to campus,â€ Rodriguez said. â€œPurchase predominantly frozen produce, and then once you realize how frequently you are eating your vegetables, switch to fresh. Fresh produce spoils quickly, and if you wait too long to eat it you are basically wasting your money.â€
Rodriguez also suggests shopping the store brand for kitchen staples, and limiting the number of times you go out to eat.
â€œInstead of going out to eat to socialize, invite friends over and have a pot-luck. This is a fun way to experiment in the kitchen and avoid overspending,â€ Rodriguez said.
For those trying to change their diet, Rodriguez warns against obsessing over eating â€œclean.â€
â€œDonâ€™t count calories. Just donâ€™t. Life is about balance, and that is something that I have come to learn after going through phases of very strict dieting or â€˜clean eating.â€™ Wanting to eat healthy is amazing, but in a society that is constantly trying to redefine what a â€˜clean dietâ€™ is, the thought of eating clean and healthy can be a little overwhelming. Try to look at food with a positive mindset, and focus on incorporating whole foods that are minimally processed into your diet. I suggest avoiding looking at nutrition labels, and instead focus on the productâ€™s ingredient list. If you recognize all of the ingredients and can envision them in your mind, then you know you are eating real food,â€ Rodriguez said.
If you are interested in following Rodriguez on social media, her handles on Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest are all @bunbeetsworld, or you can check out her blog at bunbeetsworld.com.