5 Healthy Eating Tips for College Students

Observing healthy eating habits in college can be a definite challenge. Many students have never had to fend for themselves where food is concerned, which is to say that they've always had parents on hand to plan, shop, and cook for them. As a result, the concept of creating a healthy and balanced meal, much less planning for a week's worth of meals, can be foreign territory. On top of that, students in dorms don't enjoy much in the way of kitchen amenities, with only a mini fridge, microwave, and Bunsen burner at their disposal (if they're lucky). And with classes, study, and other activities taking up the lion's share of a student's time, cooking may be relegated to the back burner, so to speak. This leaves most college kids relying on the cafeteria, vending machines, and Starbucks to fulfill their dietary needs, a trifecta of poor nutrition responsible for the freshman fifteen. But if you're looking to stay in shape, increase energy and focus, and see to your overall health during your time in college, here are a few tips to keep you on track.

  1. Use your food budget wisely. Many students opt for some kind of campus meal plan that gives them a set number of meals per day or a set amount of funds for the week to use in the cafeteria. This is a great way to ensure that you have daily access to food even if you've blown through the contents of your bank account after paying for tuition and books. Often, this is the most economical choice. But when it comes to using your money wisely, it's best to skip the easy-grab items at the checkout (chips, cookies, and other processed snacks) which offer little nutrition and are not very filling. By following the food pyramid you'll get the most bang for your buck in the way of both nutrients and lasting satisfaction where your diet is concerned.
  2. Petition for better choices. One complaint from many students is that there simply aren't healthy choices available on campus. If this is the case, you might want to petition for lean meats, whole grains, and fresh fruits and veggies in the cafeteria, as well as vending machines that offer natural juices and smoothies, plus healthy snacks.
  3. Eat on a schedule. Your body gets into trouble when you subject it to phases of famine followed by bingeing. Eating regularly will give you fuel throughout the day for sustained energy and focus. But it will also keep your metabolism steady.
  4. Get your zees. Shooting for the recommended eight hours of beauty rest each night may not sound like a tip associated with your diet, but in fact, a lack of sleep can upset the balance of hormones that control levels of hunger and satiety. A sleep deficit can raise levels of ghrelin, which makes you feel hungry, and lower levels of leptin, which makes you feel full. The result is that you experience hunger more frequently and it takes longer to feel full. This is just one good reason to get your zees.
  5. Raise awareness. You don't have to take an online DNP program to know which foods are bad and which are healthy. The problem is that most people, students included, simply aren't aware of what they're eating. For example, you might think that items like granola bars, fruit juices, and canned fruits and veggies will help you to stay healthy. But some of these items contain as much sugar as soda, and some are packed with sodium and preservatives. In addition, you likely aren't paying attention to how much you're eating. By writing down what you eat each day in a journal, along with information like calories, sugar, carbs, fats, sodium, and so on, you can start to see just how much junk is included in your "healthy" diet. Being aware is the first step towards adopting healthy practices for life.