With the new year in full swing, many people have set resolutions to eat better and to live healthier lifestyles. For college students, it isn’t so much the new year but the new semester that marks the start of these changes. Eating healthy in college can be extremely difficult: busy class schedules, unlimited meal plans, and no one to tell you to throw something green on your plate. While the new found freedom in college is wonderful, it can be really easy to neglect your nutritional needs in favor of pizza (for the third day that week).
When I first got to college back in 2012, I had every intention of eating really healthy and working out all the time so I wouldn’t experience that infamous freshman weight gain. It started out according to plan, but then college happened. My classwork began to pile up, I started to hang out with friends more, so I had less time to work out, and my stress made me turn to that beautiful tray of pastries nearly every day. Basically, life gets busy in college, and you become a lot less aware of the food choices you’re making because you are always on the go. Meal plans can be scary, but with these tips in mind, you can be confident that you’re sticking to your healthy lifestyle resolutions.
1. Focus on the healthy foods, not the “bad” ones
First of all, there is no such thing as a bad food. There are, however, foods that you should be aware of consuming in moderation. Instead of restricting these foods entirely, or constantly worrying if you’re having too much of them, just make sure to pack your diet with foods that you know are good for you: fruits, veggies, whole grains, etc. Chances are you’ll be so full from the good stuff that you won’t even have room for all the other empty calorie stuff.
2. Don’t let your schedule dictate when you eat
Between classes, meetings, getting together for group projects, etc., it can seem impossible to find time to eat a proper meal. Just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you should ignore that you’re hungry; not eating is just as unhealthy as eating too much. Plan your meals in your schedule and try not to skip them. It also helps to have a snack or two for when you have long blocks of classes with no breaks.
3. Get your protein
When you’re walking around the dining hall, it can be really easy to walk right by all the food that looks like a meal your parents would make and to head straight for a plate full of fries and breaded chicken sandwiches. Sure, it’s okay to indulge in that stuff sometimes, but focusing on lean proteins is important. Not only do you get way less fat in your meal, but you also tend to stay fuller longer and aren’t reaching for a snack in the next hour.
5. Think veggies first
After you grab your plate, take a walk around the dining hall and try to fill up at least half of your plate with vegetables before grabbing anything else. This could mean cooked veggies or a big salad; this way you’re making sure that you get those necessary vitamins and minerals that only veggies can offer you. Then, add your lean protein and some sort of starch. (Not only do veggies keep you full, but they also have a lot of awesome properties that help the immune system fight off sickness — which is common in a college environment!)
6. Don’t drink your calories
The soda and juice machines can be extremely tempting, but they are full of empty calories. Better options are water or low-fat milk, but if you do opt for soda or juice, fill your glass entirely with ice to cut your intake or dilute it with water to cut the calories.
While I may have mentioned calories a few times within the article, it was purely for nutrition comparisons. Eating healthy does not mean dieting or counting calories; it means being aware of your food choices and trying to incorporate whole, nutritious foods into your diet. Eating healthier does wonders for the body, and while it is more challenging in college, it’s not impossible. With these tips in mind, you’re well on your way to a healthier semester!