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It is difficult in our country to decipher what different food labels mean or what they can cause you to think about food in general. Health claims on food tend to offer you enormous benefits that are not necessarily backed by science, nor do they necessarily provide you with the benefit they claim to give.

Afer having analyzed labels in a variety of nutrition courses over time, I have created a list of these terms and labels and what they really mean – in hopes for you to reference them – whether they’re good, and informative, or…not that way. 😀


 

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GLUTEN FREE: a food is only allowed this label if it contains 10 parts per million or less of gluten. This is often certified through the Gluten Free Intolerance Organization (GFIO) which is regulated with the USDA’s labeling standards. This label helps those with Celiac’s Disease spot “safe” foods, and others who are avoiding gluten by choice the same. Does gluten free mean “healthy?” Foods labeled “gluten free” are not necessarily healthier or more nutrient dense. There are plenty of cakes, cookies, pastries, crackers, and other processed foods now certified gluten free, offering those with an allergy or sensitivity, or Celiac Disease an option to enjoy their favorite foods too without gluten that causes them problems. If you see this label, you can safely assume is that there is NO GLUTEN in the product.

 

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KOSHER: Probably the least known and recognized, Kosher foods are those that are deemed pure according to the Jewish law. Click here for all the standards for meat, fish, and other foods (koshercertification.org). This symbol above shows Americans that the food product is suitable to consume if one is observing dietary Kosher laws.

 

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NATURAL: there isn’t a specific label that is associated with this nutrition claim simply because the term itself is misleading and ambiguous. The Food and Drug Administration, as well as the United States Department of Agriculture do not provide federal regulation as to what constitutes a “natural food.” This claim is misleading, vague, and cannot promise any benefits. Some food will be labeled as “natural” with other promised claims such as “no MSG, no preservatives, and no hydrogenated oil” which can be helpful to some, but remember, read the label, and that this claim is not regulated.

 

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NON-GMO: a product with this label means that it does not contain any genetically modified organism (GMOs). The certification is based on the Non-GMO Project whose “commitment is to preserve and building sources of non-GMO products, educating consumers, and providing verified non-GMO sources.” If a food contains this label, you can be assured that your food has not been genetically modified. Beyond this, non-GMO food may or may not have other significant health benefits.

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ORGANIC: This label is regulated by the United States of Agriculture as clearly observed by the label. For a food product to earn this label, it has to be produced by approved methods: “cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that fosters cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used.” Similar to the “gluten free” claim, you can be assured that food with this label IS organic, but does that necessarily translate to “healthy?” No. There simply isn’t enough research to conclude that products labeled as organic provide more benefits than those that are not.

 

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VEGETARIAN: vegetarian products in the United States are not regulated by the FDA or USDA. Therefore, independent organizations in our country have pridefully labeled their food as such – promising the absence of meat or meat products in their food items. If you purchase something with the vegetarian label (often a green symbol with a plant on it), chances are, that company takes great pride in their product and ensuring their product does not contain meat. Does vegetarian mean “healthy”? Something labeled “vegetarian” simply means the product does not contain meat. Though a plant-based diet does have plenty of benefits, there are plenty of other factors to consider when determining if a vegetarian product is deemed, “healthy” such as if the product saturated fat, sugar content, whole grains, and processed ingredients.

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VEGAN: Similar to vegetarian, this label isn’t regulated by a government branch, but it is regulated by private companies such as Vegan.org which promise that there is zero amount of animal product in compliance with vegan standards. Does vegan mean “healthy?” Again, as mentioned previously about vegetarian products, eating a plant-based diet has benefits backed by research, however, did you know Oreos are technically vegan (though they might be cross-contacted with milk in some countries) ? Oreos are made from high fructose corn syrup, and other food additives; so overall, just because something like an Oreo is vegan doesn’t necessarily mean it is “healthy.”


As with anything, it is important to be a well-informed consumer by reading labels thoroughly, and understanding what they mean. I hope that by reading this, you are able to make more educated decisions about choosing foods when shopping and what you choose to purchase!

As always, thank you for reading!

xx,

M

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Wherever I go, whenever I travel, whenever there’s a new place in town, I cannot wait to try it. Tell me that being a “foodie” hasn’t influenced my decision to study nutrition as an undergrad! My point here, is that as much as I love cooking and creating new recipes, I equally enjoy eating out and trying new dishes as well as revisiting my old favorites.

Food is the center of culture: in many communities/ethnic groups, and consequently, offering food or sharing a meal together shows that one is welcome in that community. Going to eat is often a social outing simply shared around good food. With this social benefit of going out to eat together, the concept of eating out often gets a bad rap – this is due to our food culture in the U.S., not you!

Why, though? Portions are often out of control, dishes are loaded with excessive calories, and the meal can get expensive pretty quickly. Keep reading to learn how to eat out with more intention and to hack the food system while enjoying good food and company!

***


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blood orange mimosa with brunch? ok.

1. Drinks?

Soda and other speciality drinks can be more than three dollars per drink which are high in sugar and extra calories before your meal even begins. The easiest solution?

Order a water.

Free drink, free refills, no calories, and helps your stomach and body prepare for the meal you’re about to enjoy! What if everyone is ordering drink, drinks though? I suggest ordering one and drinking it slowly to enjoy it and not spend more than you had initially planned on.

 


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packed salad without dressing!

2.  Salad?

Though salads usually are thought of as “the healthier alternative,” as you’re getting greens and vegetables in, you’d be surprised to see that at some restaurants, salads can be higher in calories and saturated fat than some burgers. What? How? The dressing is usually the culprit. Solution?

Ask for the dressing on the side.

You are then able to control the amount you want to put on your own salad and you’ll probably find yourself leaving some dressing behind. Restaurants often give WAY more than the recommended serving size alots for.


3. Not enough nutrients for you?

IMG_0186Noodles & Co small spicy korean beef noodles with shrimp instead of beef and added broccoli 🙂

Many restaurants are accommodating and want to help make your meal the best way you’d enjoy it; it’ll bring you back in! After long tennis practices followed by weight lifting in college, my teammates and I would go to Noodles and Company to refuel. Now, not only does Noodles provide minimally processed fast food with fresh ingredients, they are one of the many restaurants happy to help customize your dish. After tennis practice, I would order a pasta dish (hello post-workout carbs), and in addition to whatever vegetables came with that dish, I would add broccoli and sauteed peppers for a few cents more. That way, you get even more vegetables and consequently, more nutrients, from your meal. Mac and cheese sounds really good? Spaghetti with meatballs? Chicken alfredo as a treat? Add some vegetables!

You will get to enjoy your favorite dish, but also enjoy the benefits of getting more nutrients in one meal. Yay!


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get dessert and share it 😉

4. Portion size too big?

If you go to other countries, and I’m thinking of European countries specifically, you’ll note that portions sizes are much smaller than that of ours in the US. This portion size isn’t your fault. But there are two different things you can do about it.

One: Share your dishes.

When you have someone to split your dish with, you’re eating half the calories, half the fat, half the grossly portioned size the restaurant often doses out. This alone will decrease your chances of overeating and getting a stomach ache, and you will likely not regret your decision to eat out. If you order dessert, too, ALWAYS share. 🙂 The other option is…

Two: Get a to-go box when you get your food and put half in the box.

Boom, two meals for one price and immediate portion control. This will prevent you from overeating from the start and give you another meal for the next day. Two meals for one price! What’s better than that!


5. Sides?

Sure, a big burger is a treat for many to have as a “cheat meal” but what usually accompanies that? French fries, onion rings, you get it. If you want to opt to get some nutritional benefit from a meal like this,

Request a different side dish.

Swap french fries for steamed broccoli, onion rings for grilled vegetables, a cornbread muffin for corn on the cob. Most restaurants offer a variety of sides that you can pick from, only it’s up to you to make the change! Check out the menu of Famous Dave’s sides for example.


6. What comes on that?

As mentioned with dressing (see #2), restaurants tend to smother and load things on their meals such as mayo, cream-based sauces, barbeque sauces, alfredo sauces, mustards, ketchup, butter, or other unwanted or unnecessary additives. The solution?

Ask what comes on the meal you’re about to order.

The clears up any confusion, alerts you to any potential allergens, and gives you a heads-up as to what you’ll be consuming. If any of the ingredients listed are not something you want, as if you can skip that item, like the salad, ask for it on the side, or request a healthier alternative. This way, you are eliminating unnecessary cals or fats or sugars, and YOU are controlling how much you put on your meal.

*Bonus tip, my brother’s tip is to skip mayo and add avocado. You get the creaminess you desire [on a sandwich] without the processing, fat, and calories, and you get healthy (monounsaturated) fat from a plant source – woo!


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adding salmon to my favorite sesame salad at the North Dakota Museum of Art Cafe

7.  Protein source?

Grilled or crispy? Chicken, steak or pork? Broiled or fried fish?

We’re often faced with a lot of options when it comes to choosing a protein source; especially at restaurants. Solution?

Choosing a lean, grilled or broiled protein source.

Choosing grilled chicken, black or pinto beans, roasted turkey, dishes with lentils or peanuts (legumes), or those with nuts such as almonds, pecans, or walnuts give you the leanest, and minimally processed protein sources. Avoid fried foods. Though they are better than nothing, they offer minimal nutritional benefits and pose potential health risks if consumed all too frequently.


8. What’s fresh?

Restaurants are often proud to disclose what they have on-hand. Some restaurants have partnerships with other local companies and will disclose where they get their honey, eggs, chicken, and produce from. If you’re looking for a healthier option when you go out to eat, eating at local, independently-owned restaurants are more than likely going to offer you higher quality ingredients and more flavor in your food.


Now, if you are enjoying a meal that’s a treat or going out is a treat for you, don’t feel guilty about your food choices. If you go to a specific restaurant a few times a year and go there specifically for their homemade baked mac & cheese with breadcrumbs (my weakness) and Moscow mules, don’t make food swaps. Enjoy your meal. What you can do is also get a water to drink with your favorite cocktail, and bring half of your mac & cheese home so you don’t eat too much, and you have more to eat later. Never follow a “diet” that deprives you from indulging every once in a while. Eating your favorite foods (though they might not fit into your every day “diet”) is good for the soul – trust me! As long as we aren’t eating this way all the time.

With that, I thank you for reading and I hope this helps when you choose to eat out at your favorite restaurants, trying new ones, and when you travel!

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xx,

M

 

When an American is asked to name a college food, what comes to mind? Ramen. In a cup. In a package with the block of noodles and a flavor package. Nutrient-dense? Wholesome? Identifiable ingredients? Nope. Comforting? Warm? Satisfying? You bet.

I have taken this brick of noodles and made it a little bit more bearable but all the more satisfying. Today, brick of of noodles + a time crunch = something I hope you will love as much as I do. 🙂 It won’t take you very long either!

*recipe is vegan/vegetarian*


Ingredients:

  • green vegetables of choice (I used broccoli and snap peas)
  • 1 c. vegetable broth
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce/tamari
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1 tsp minced garlic (or so)
  • 1 block ramen noodles from pkg, or 1 pkg of fresh ramen noodles
  • 1 tsp black sesame seeds for garnish & extra flavor

How-To:

  1. Saute vegetables of choice in olive oil al dente. Add garlic and kill the heat.
  2. Remove vegetables from pot and add broth and water to the pot. Bring to a boil.
  3. Add noodles and cook according to pkg (about 3 minutes).
  4. Add the soy sauce/tamari to the bottom of serving bowl.
  5. Grab noodles from broth with a spaghetti spoon. Pour broth into serving bowl over soy sauce/tamari
  6. Place noodles in bowl in the broth mixture
  7. Place vegetables on top of noodles and arrange as desired.
  8. Top with sesame seeds and serve with chopsticks or a fork 😀

Take that, college! And as always, happy eating!

xx,
M

 

Seven semesters of my undergraduate studies are done – just like that! I’m writing to share my experience with flexibility, progress, and personal growth that I have experienced throughout the last few months.

A difference from this semester compared to my previous semesters – from the start – was that it was my first semester not being on the tennis team here at UND. Playing my favorite sport at the division I level is something I would have never fathomed before it was given to me, and I am eternally grateful for this experience that has enhanced my overall college experience.

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What’s the big transition, you ask?

For the last three years of undergrad, I had a small family (or subculture, as we call it in sociology), that I did everything with: my teammates. Every day was structured leaving little wiggle room for being tired or giving up. At the start of the day, I would wake up tired, attend lecture, make lunch, practice for two hours, lift/condition for another hour, shower and make dinner, and study until about midnight every night. Monday through Friday. On top of these daily activities included community service events, various formal events, Saturday practices, and required meetings. It sounds like too much, right? Nope. I loved the community we shared with other athletes. I loved the rigorous fitness regimen. I loved the structure and routine. This is why I am eternally grateful for the experience.

This semester has been quite an alteration of the previous and a transition at best. With less structure, I was both challenged and relieved to adjust to a different schedule, one where I felt more in control of my own studying, working, and staying active flexibly. I have never struggled with structure and this new experience has left me feeling happier and less stressed overall. Again, my experience playing tennis in college is something I will forever be grateful for and I would not trade it for the world. It’s an experience I wish for every athlete to have – with all my heart.

Now, with the status as “former athlete” I can share my experiences from the last 4 months that have changed my lifestyle for the (even) better. 😀

August:

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paddleboarding with Stella 🙂

The weekend before school started, I spent the weekend at a family friends’ cabin in northern Minnesota. If you’ve never been to the area, regardless from what part of the Earth you live on, I wish for you to experience this form of tranquility. There is nothing like it. Especially as your are mentally preparing for 16 weeks of college physics.

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a cabin in the woods

September: 

A challenge I felt I would struggle with is scheduling exercise into my busy days. After registering for my first race in June, I began training all summer. The feeling of crossing the finish line is symbolic of all those miles I logged with the absence of snow on the ground. If you really want to feel alive, run a race!

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this girl.

My 22nd birthday was my favorite birthday to date. Having lunch with my mom and spending the evening with my best friends meant so much to me. A reminder that with age, comes the satisfaction of having those who you love around you rather than material things. Cheers to another year of getting my ID meticulously checked!

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my people!!!

October:

North Dakota is so beautiful 3 of the 4 seasons we experience. The leaves and the outdoor bike rides and walks with Stella truly make me feel alive. Something I’m learning to do is find the mind-body-spirit connection; and what I have learned

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hanging in the mountains with one of my favorite people and her sweet sweet baby Lilah ❤

In the midst of it all, I go to visit my cousin Bronwyn at the end of the month – ALL THE WAY IN ARIZONA. We hiked, ate all the dairy-free ice cream, and I personally didn’t do anything academic for a few days. Talk about feeling alive!

November: 

I interviewed for another job (and just today received news that it’s officially mine) with the wellness center on campus. I will be working at the Culinary Corner and performing free, healthy cooking demos for students – for free! I cannot wait to also or at a job where I am able to engage in my passion and help others learn about one of my favorite things in life: food.

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never going to forget this one!

Meanwhile, at my emergency room job, I was able to assist with a procedure (I was on a high for 3 days straight). I have always known that I want to be a physician that takes pride in teaching, but now I can promise this will be in my future; I want to give back in thanks to those who have taught me while I’ve been an eager student.

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YUMS.

OH, and Thanksgiving! My cousin and I made our *FIRST EVER* vegan Thanksgiving. We will be doing this again, don’t worry.

December:

Round seven of finals and through with half a year of physics! Now, it’s time to relax.

***

As mentioned before, this semester has been very different and challenging in its own way, but adjusting to spending more time at the hospital, learning how to prioritize my time, and making the most with every opportunity I have been faced with has been so much fun. I could not be more grateful for some of the changes in my life. Sometimes, blessings come in disguise.

Thanks for reading, much love!

xx,

M

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you guys know, my study playlists consist of both relaxing alternative music to Drake. I think it’s the combination between the two extremes that gives me the most effective study sessions.

I finished my first week of senior year (aka physics overload) and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Now that syllabus week is over, let the studying begin, and what better way than to release a new study playlist?

Click here to find it on spotify, or enjoy it from the list below! 😀

  1. You Need Me, I Don’t Need You – Ed Sheeran
  2. Body Like a Back Road – Sam Hunt
  3. 2U – Justin Bieber
  4. Particula – Major Lazer, DJ Maphorisa
  5. No Vacancy – OneRepublic
  6. Strip That Down – Liam Payne, Quavo
  7. Wildfire – John Mayer
  8. Light – San Holo
  9. On My Mind – Public
  10. Old School – Urban Cone
  11. 22 – Taylor Swift
  12. Drop the Game – single version – Flume & Chet Faker
  13. This is How You Know – Union Moon
  14. Anywhere – Dillon Francis, Will Heard
  15. Slow Hands – Niall Horan

 

Get your study on!

xx,

M

 

 

It has taken me a long time to figure out what really works for me in terms of learning. I wish I had the ability to read something once and fully understand it, but I am no Lexie Grey. If you feel you have the same terms of memory capacity as the fictional doctor, consider yourself lucky.

If you are like me, and NOT like Dr. Grey, keep reading and I’ll tell you how I study efficiently. 😀

I’ve found my brain likes to write and I best understand a concept by doing. I’ve found that hands-on courses like labs and simulation activities are the types of of courses I excel in. Learning this about myself has taught me to adapt my studying by how I personally learn best.

If you find yourself a visual/hands-on learner, keep reading. Here’s how I study!

Before class:

  • I download the notes the professor has online before class. I will either download them to my computer or iPad, or print them out.
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I use my iPad every single day. 

 

  • I check the syllabus to see what will be covered in class that day and skim through the textbook if I have the chance to do so. This helps simply to be aware of what will be covered in class that day.

 

During class:

  • I listen to the professor’s lectures and write down important concepts. This is done by circling, bolding, highlighting, or sometimes when a professor says: *THIS IS ON THE TEST!* you bet I’m going to write that in bold, or brightly colored ink. Every student’s favorite words.
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I use the program NOTABILITY on my iPad with my Apple pencil. save the trees! 😀

 

  • I draw arrows and bullet points to their notes to help keep everything in the same category for my later reference and know exactly what is important when I’m copying down the notes

 

After class:

  • If and when I have a break after class, I will begin copying down ALL of the notes fro the professor’s including the material I have added myself – yes, that is right. I wish this wasn’t my brain’s best method because it is very time consuming but I have learned the hard way that this is what works for me. Ok, I shouldn’t say all of their notes, this includes paraphrasing, but you get it. The jist of the information professors convey is copied down into my notebook.
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Black pen, highlighter, and blue pen to copy my notes. Most of the pens are hopsital-acquired. From taking them home in scrub pockets. Relatable? 😀
  • I write the bullet points in black ink and write in answers to practice problems and/or extra information in blue ink. I draw pictures in various colored ink, and I highlight and bold important concepts. This way, when I’m reviewing for an exam, I can skim through and the bold and highlight will catch my eye.
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sketches, drawings, black ink, highlighter. histology! 

 

  • If a concept wasn’t clear through the professor’s notes, I will refer to the textbook and/or YouTube, specifically Khan Academy to clarify a topic or subject. I will add – in my own terms – the difficult topic to my copied notes from class. Acronyms/mnemonics are written in blue ink alongside my skeleton of black notes.
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red & blue ink for the cardiovascular system! anatomy

Before an exam:

  • Flashcards and note review – I write out difficult concepts or terms on flashcards and quiz myself. My notes are highlighted and bolded for reference that my future self always thanks my past self for 😀

 

  • Talking though a concept repetitively. This works really well with going through the flow of blood through the heart, or the metabolic pathway a certain protein channel. I have a friend take my notes and I recite the information back to them. If I don’t know something, I think of something that will remind me of it. I’m going to do an entire post on acronyms, ok? It is also beneficial to talk through and draw a process with a friend/study partner.
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whiteboards and concept mapping is VERY HELPFUL! 

 

  • I DO NOT STUDY THE NIGHT OR ESPECIALLY THE MORNING OF A TEST. My brain hates this. I control any test anxiety by stating I will only know what I know 24 hours before an exam and that I won’t learn or retain anything new past that point. Cramming makes me crazy. Instead of doing so, I will REVIEW material such as skimming over notes and reading the highlighted material. Sometimes reading them out loud helps me.

 

  • Trusting in my preparation – this is KEY. My philosophy on exams is either you know the material, or  you don’t. Attempting to study and learn new material the day before an exam, the night before exam, or the MORNING of an exam trigger serious test anxiety for me. This is why I DON’T STUDY THE DAY BEFORE AN EXAM. Reviewing is different that studying. Reviewing is looking over a concept, refreshing your memory, or looking something up briefly. Studying is attempting to learn and integrate new information. While this may not work for me, it might for you – that’s ok. All I’m saying is I have learned to trust in my preparation and that alone puts me at ease & gives me confidence when going into an exam.

 

*What works for me might also work very well for you (that’s the intention), but because everyone is unique, my methods might not work for you. Just remember that. 🙂

How do you study? What works best for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback!

I wish you all the best semester and I hope you celebrate the little things throughout it! Happy studying!

xx,

M

3 years of college in: here’s what I keep with me to fuel my study sessions and days of class!

I joke that it is quite possible I am able to live out of my backpack for at least 24 hours, but the truth is, I have learned over time that it is much more beneficial to keep everything I need with me so I can simply grab my backpack and leave without thinking about missing something crucial. 😀

  1. computer AND/OR iPad
  2. CHARGERS for computer & iPad/iPhone – electronics are useless without them.
  3. headphones – sometimes 2x pairs – studying without music might be impossible for some. My Bose over the ear headphones are not sound-proof, but they definitely cancel out noise better than earbuds! Having another pair might be nice if your friend forgets theirs, too 😀
  4. snacks – check out my post on my top 5 snacks on the go for more details!
  5. a waterbottle – anything but glass.
  6. notebooks for class – only the ones I need that day!
  7. PLANNER. I don’t think I could live without this. Between my iCloud calendar and my paper calendar, my life is somewhat put together. Mine is a Ban.do agenda and I love it dearly.
  8. Pencil pouch full of pencils and pens and highlighters.
  9. cash – at least $5. I always carry my debit card with me, but you never know when you need cash. Food stands, farmer’s markets, some places still don’t take cards! (I learned this from you, Mom!)
  10. sticky notes – I staple some to my planner pages to make a to-do list every day
  11. naproxen/acetaminophen/ibuprofen. Headaches often come without warning.
  12. gum. Again, you never know when you’re going to need it. Dates? Teeth just feel gross? Peppermint for nausea?
  13. chapstick & a small bottle of lotion. Essentials in North Dakota winters.
  14. Hair ties, bobby pins, a headband. In order to put your hair up and get s*** done, these items are required.

Here what I NEVER keep in my backpack (or have made the mistake of keeping in before):

  • lotion alone – if the bottle breaks or the cap comes off somehow (yes it’s possible), your backpack is probably ruined. Yes, this has happened to me before.
  • fresh fruits or vegetables – if you forget about them and they make it to the bottom, you’re going to have some serious regrets. Again, I learn from experience.
  • loose pens. Pens explode. Always, always, always keep them in a case!
  • glass bottles for juice/coffee/water. If you fall on ice, which is very possible in my homeland of North Dakota, you water bottle may shatter and ruin anything and everything. And if you have a water bottle of any kind, MAKE SURE IT IS ALWAYS SEALED. 😀 water damage is unfortunately irreversible.

DETAILS:

I use a North Face Double Time backpack which is smaller than the others I’ve used in the past, but this size is perfect so that I don’t have the option to put textbooks in it and put a strain on my back. I hopefully have a lot of school left and I’d like to spare my lumbar spine 😀

Durability is essentially important in college and graduate school. I have used a backpack like this several times. Having a high-quality backpack is not something I can skimp on. It’s an investment that will last for years if you take care of it!

What am I missing? Likely not much. 😉

Keeping all the essentials right here with me supports a healthy, busy lifestyle. What do you keep in your backpack? STAY TUNED FOR PART TWO OF THIS #backtoschool SERIES!

xx,

M