Heading off to college brings a myriad of change. Some of the larger adjustments include being away from home, having responsibility, a full course load, and perhaps even balancing it all with a job.
As a result of all this change, many students have to cope with fighting off the tendency to fall into poor dietary habits. When you’re busy a tendency is to grab something easy or quick, if you remember to eat at all, both of which lead to poor eating routines. After you go away to school, it is not uncommon to find you’ve suddenly gained 10 to 15 pounds in the first few months after your arrival on campus. If so, you aren’t alone, this happens to many students. Especially, now that it’s not just dining halls or quick options, these days many fast food chains and other unhealthy options have made their way onto campuses.
It is no wonder students fall into easy and quick foods on the go, with all the time crunches, late night study sessions, limited choices of healthy food, busy social life and empty pockets; all of these factors contribute to a student’s tendency to develop poor eating habits.
The good news is that eating nutritious food doesn’t have to be expensive. Your college meal plan, if you watch what you eat, will increase your options and ability to be able to select nourishing choices. There are several ways to successfully combat the urge to eat unhealthy and processed foods. If you give these basic guidelines a try, you’ll find yourself maintaining a fit and healthy lifestyle.
How to Eat Healthy at College
A good idea is to keep a variety of nutritious snacks in your room to munch on when the hunger pangs strike. Fruit, vegetable sticks, granola bars, and grain crackers are all good choices. Most dorms allow a small refrigerator, and you can get an inexpensive one that is pretty decent (we picked one up at Lowe’s for under $90). Buy some low-fat cheese and yogurt to give you a little more variety in snacking. Try stocking up on some wholesome, but tasty goodies. This will help ward off those midnight pizza or potato chip cravings.
Don’t skip meals
It is tempting to sleep in a few extra minutes before the mad dash to get to your morning class. This is a bad habit to fall into, for some people it may slow your metabolism and in terms of energy, you’ll feel more tired too. Schedule time in for breakfast (and your other meals too) because skipping meals will increase your desire to find something quick to eat later on when you’re famished. Chances are that something fast will be an unhealthy meal or a bag of some deep-fried snack. If you make time for healthy fulfilling meals you’ll effectively avoid this pitfall. Many students skip meals during the day and end up eating late night dinners, this is something it’s good to try to avoid.
Make healthy choices
Make a concentrated effort to select healthy choices at the cafeteria. For instance, opt for the grilled chicken and salad instead of the burgers and fries. While the latter is tempting, especially when you are on-the-go, your body will thank you later on for resisting that urge. Beware of the buffet-style cafeterias, take only what you’ll eat and don’t overindulge. Avoid the dessert table and ice cream dispenser, although treating yourself once in a while won’t do any harm.
Drink plenty of water
Drink plenty of water and try to stay away from sugary juices (even 100 percent juice products – too many of these will pack on the pounds) and, most especially, avoid soft drinks. Keeping a bottle of water you can carry around to refill throughout the day will curb your urge for vending machines and help you keep up on drinking the daily recommend levels of water.
With a jam-packed schedule it is often hard to stick to a regular exercise regimen. If this is a problem for you, try taking the long path to classes and also make an opportunity to walk whenever your destination is in walking distance. Take the stairs instead of the elevator; every bit of exercise adds up. Weekends are a good time to try and get in a solid workout. Many colleges have fitness centers these days. If yours does, take advantage of it!
If you do happen to find yourself gaining weight, don’t panic and go on drastic or fad diets. Evaluate your habits, pinpoint your problem areas and strive to work on them. If you stick to the basics of nutritious eating and regular exercise, the weight will start to come back off. Eating well and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is all about making conscious choices. College is a new situation and it’s tempting to gravitate towards the quick and easy in order to satisfy hunger, especially when you are distracted or stressed out with other things going on.
Unfortunately, the quick and easy isn’t always the best healthy option. Stick to better choices, follow these tips and you’ll find yourself feeling better, more energized and after a time, you’ll not even crave the junk anymore.
Leigh has been writing on the web since 2007. She has a high interest in business, tech, higher education, and Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia travel, but loves to write about a variety of topics. In addition to writing on Writedge, she also runs a blog about the Washington DC Metro Area and a photography blog Photos by Leigh Goessl.