Eating better in college is perhaps one of hardest struggles you’ll face as a student—harder than a term paper or an impossible exam. With all the tempting treats and snacks, a hectic schedule, and the constant free food at every event you go to, it can be hard to stick to a healthy plan that keeps you trim and in shape all semester long. The key to eating better in college is developing small, but effective habits that will cut calories and boost your metabolism. Establish better eating habits now in college, while you have the time and energy, for a lifetime of health.
1. Eat Breakfast
Eating better in college all starts with breakfast. Everyone knows eating breakfast jumpstarts your metabolism, gives you vital nutrition after a long night’s sleep, and provides the energy you need to tackle the day. But did you know many college students skip breakfast? Even if you slept in late or have multiple classes that day, take 10 minutes to make yourself something healthy. Breakfast can be as simple as a slice of toast with natural peanut butter and a cup of coffee from your local coffee shop. You can certainly spare some time for Starbucks, right?
2. Invest in a Mini Fridge
A mini-fridge might seem kind of pricey at first, but it will certainly pay for itself over time. I used my mini-fridge religiously for my four years of school. When the weather is crappy and all you want to do is lie in bed and watch movies on Netflix, a mini-fridge is perfect for making meals in the comfort of your dorm room. You can easily store healthy foods like Greek yogurt, low-fat cheese, eggs, and even leftovers from the night before in your fridge.
3. Fill Your Mini Fridge and Dorm with Healthy Food
There is one disclaimer to having a mini-fridge in college; if you fill it with unhealthy foods you certainly won’t be healthy and could even gain weight. Instead, make good food choices for your dorm room. If you fill your dorm with healthy food like fruits, veggies, whole grains, and healthy fats you’ll have no choice but to eat healthy. Some great foods are apples, pears, celery, carrots, hummus, peanut butter, brown rice cakes, whole grain crackers and toast, and raw nuts like walnuts and almonds.
4. Pick Baked or Broiled Items at the Dining Hall
Have you ever seen food at the dining hall that’s totally unrecognizable? We’ve all cringed at the site of mystery meat or some other obscure concoction, but it’s important to also scrutinize the recognizable fried foods at your dining hall. Fried foods at most dining halls are usually cooked in cheap, refined oils which are terrible for your health. This method of cooking also adds a ton of fat calories to even simple foods like chicken breasts. Steer clear of fried foods and opt for items that have been baked or broiled.
5. Add Veggies to Lunch and Dinner
Many college students fail to get the recommended daily requirements of fruits and vegetables.Refuse to be a statistic and make a conscious choice to eat more vegetables at both lunch and dinner. Maybe you choose to load your sandwich with additional veggies like spinach, bell peppers, and sprouts. Perhaps you like to add a side salad to your dinner of chicken and pasta. The bottom line is, try to find ways to sneak leafy greens and other veggies into your meals that are tasty and nutritious.
6. Avoid Late Night at the Diner
Many universities have a late night policy where they serve munchies and sweet treats late into the night, sometimes past midnight. There’s almost nothing good about these foods, and usually they’re just an excuse to pig out on gross wings and processed nacho cheese. If you’re really hungry at night or missed dinner, make something more nutritious from your well-stocked dorm. Cereal and milk, fruit and raw nuts, or even a toasted cheese sandwich are all far better choices than ice cream and pizza.
7. Stay Hydrated on Campus
Dehydration is one of the most common healthy problems on college campuses. It can lead to all sorts of problems as minor as low energy levels to as major as kidney stones. Many students argue they don’t have time to constantly drink water while they’re in class or the money to buy bottles of water all day every day. Avoid the need for buying water all the time and reduce your carbon footprint by investing in a reusable plastic water bottle. You can easily carry this water bottle with you to class and other events, staying hydrated all day long!
8. Eat out Only Once a Week
I’m not going to be unrealistic and tell you to never eat out. I understand that you’re in college and sometimes you simply need to bond with your girlfriends over a few pizzas and bottles of wine. It’s totally cool to participate in social gatherings with your friends. Just keep the eating out to a maximum of once a week. If your friends like to get together around meal time, suggest a restaurant with healthier options. You can even suggest a potluck and prepare something healthy that you can definitely eat.
9. Keep Alcohol Consumption in Check
This last one is something many young female college students overlook. Drinking alcohol in excess can certainly lead to weight gain over time. When alcohol enters the body, the liver is forced to take away all attention from any fat it was burning and instead expend its energy into processing the alcohol you just drank. If your liver spends too much time breaking down alcohol and not fat, you’ll eventually be consuming more calories than your body is capable of burning, ultimately leading to weight gain. I’m not going to say how much you should or shouldn’t drink. Just try to keep it in check and not go overboard.
Eating well in college doesn’t need to be a stressful part of your day. Don’t miss out on your college experience over something as trivial as your diet! Eating healthy is important, but moderation is also key, and if a slip up happens, accept it with grace and strive to do better tomorrow. What are some of your college eating tips?