May 2013 – Hypoglycemia & the College Bound Student

I have many family and friends whose children are going off to college this fall. Some have already accepted their college of choice while others are still in the deciding stage. I recently had dinner surrounded by five teenagers, ranging from 16 to 22 years of age…I loved every moment of it! However, while the subject matter was fun and frivolous, ranging from food to dieting, boys to dating and then shopping to shoes…the subject of going away to college became the main topic of discussion. It turned serious! Josie, who is just 17, is heading to the University of Florida in Gainesville, a 6 hour drive away from home. Although very excited, you can see she has some concerns. One question that I brought up was…are you taking the college food plan or cooking and eating out on campus grounds? Before Josie had a chance to respond, I thought of the question and answer that Dr. Shirley Lorenzani wrote in the newest edition of my book, The Do’s and Don’ts of Hypoglycemia: An Everyday Guide to Low blood Sugar – page 136. Whatever Josie’s decision may be, I will definitely share the following information with her. Hopefully it will make the next chapter in her life, a bit easier!

Q. I am 18 years old and have hypoglycemia. I’ve been able to control my symptoms but with my mom’s help. She makes it easy because she cooks everything I’m supposed to eat. I’m off to college in a few weeks and worried about how and if I can stick to a hypoglycemia diet.

A. As you look around at your classmates, you probably see them eating and drinking foods that contain high amounts of high-fructose corn syrup, one of the worst ingredients for maintaining steady blood sugar. Donuts, candy bars, sodas, energy drinks, and flavored water are among the culprits. Don’t think those students are getting away with their diet. You reap what you swallow! In that perspective, all of the students are hypoglycemic. Their food choices determine whether or not they are feeling the symptoms.

UC Berkeley sent a copy of The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan to incoming students in the College of Letters and Science…2009. Students were asked to read the book over the summer and sign up for food-focused discussion groups and classes in the fall semester. One of Pollan’s main points is that our Homo sapiens brain evolved to a large size because we require a lot of brainpower to make wise food choices. Just because a food is sold in the grocery store or college cafeteria doesn’t mean it can sustain your health. He asserts that health can be built and nurtured by being informed about foods and what they do to your body. Simple, whole foods are usually the best choice. That usually works for hypoglycemia as well as other health challenges. After you make your move to college, explore nearby grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and restaurants to find foods similar to what your mom has been cooking for you at home. Maybe you can improve on what your mom has done! You are considered an adult by the military, voting registrar, the bars in many states, and law enforcement. It’s time to assert the responsibility for your blood sugar levels. If you don’t have a kitchen available, and it’s permitted in your living situation, invest in a hot plate, crock pot, and mini-fridge. This way you can asily cook healthy basics like beans, quinoa, fresh vegetables, meat, poultry, eggs, and fish. If you have to rely on your school’s cafeteria food, be assertive in making suggestions to the manager. Chances are other students feel the same way you do, and your activism will be appreciated. —Dr. Shirley Lorenzani

Here is some addition suggestion:

• If you intend to stock up on foods or snacks that are easily accessible like yogurt, energy drinks, fruit/granola bars…be careful! Although touted as “healthy” many brands contain a high amount of  sugar.
• An extra word of caution If you go for energy drinks…too much caffeine can give you a quick high but do not be fooled…it will follow by a drastic low.
• Keep an assortment of nuts and/or trail mix available. Add some apples slices and you’ll have a great pick-me-up, especially just before exams!
• Cheese and whole wheat crackers are also good to keep on hand.
• If you eat out, choose a food chain that has freshly made meals…Subway and Wendy’s are noted for their lean meats and fresh vegetables.
• Whenever you can, choose chicken and lean meats over anything that is heavily salted or fried.
• If you opt for a salad bar… omit the trans-fat and possible sugar rich salad dressing and go for oil and vinegar.
• Don’t forget the hard-boiled egg…easy, delicious and can eat on the run.
• Drink water, tea or diluted juices while keeping soda, especially with a high sugar content, very, very limited…if not at all.
• And most importantly, watch your alcoholic intake. Alcohol and hypoglycemia definitely do not mix!

To all the new graduates…congratulations on your new and exciting journey!

Here’s to your health,
Roberta

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