For some, college is the first experience away from home. Students stepping out on their own devises them to make personal choices, health included.
Though becoming fixated or obsessed with a strict diet is discouraged, know there are encouraging tips to enjoy the college years while starting and implementing lifelong healthy choices!
Wondering how you can avoid the “Freshman 15?” Learn the best dietitian-approved tips on how to eat healthy in college that can apply both during and after college years.
10 Ways to Eat Healthy in College & Avoid the Freshman 15
Access to unlimited food buffets and free reign to have snacks in the dorm room can be factors for gaining the Freshman 15. However, following these tips can help avoid the Freshman 15 by making healthy food choices in the dorm, on campus, and in the dining halls.
1. Stock Up with Healthy Convenience Foods
Now you may be wondering, "Aren't convenience foods not so healthy?" Though most prepackaged foods are certainly loaded with sugar and salt, some are actually nutritious and worth stocking up on in college.
For instance, frozen bags of fruits and vegetables can be kept in the freezer. Bananas and apples can be stored anywhere in a dorm room and thrown right into your backpack for a healthy to-go snack.
Additionally, keep proportioned containers of tuna, hummus, yogurt, and peanut butter on hand for eating healthy options in a dorm room or apartment.
2. Prepare Simple Meals in the Dorm
Wondering how to eat healthy in college dorms? Keep it simple! Since space and appliances are generally limited, preparing extravagant meals may be impossible.
However, what is possible for healthy eating for college living is preparing simple dishes from budget-friendly superfoods. Prepare canned tuna or chicken mixed with Greek yogurt or a simple leafy salad. A simple chili from canned or dried beans provides nutrients without complex practices. Low-sodium vegetable canned soups are a simple food to quickly pop into the microwave as well.
Additionally, keep eating healthy in college simple by adding canned or frozen veggies to packaged foods. For example, add frozen vegetables when cooking pasta noodles or macaroni and cheese for a boost of nutrients.
3. Prepare Meals and Snacks in Your Room or Apartment
Whether taking a studying break or during downtime between classes, practice meal preparation to stay healthy during college and beyond. Doing so reduces the opportunity of resorting to chips from the student union or common area.
For example, keep the noted items (tip two in "Keep It Simple") on hand and available in proportioned containers in the fridge. Pre-sliced peppers, cucumbers, and apples also make excellent snacks. Keep them front and center so they are the easy choice when wanting to grab a snack.
4. Go for Veggies First at the Dining Hall
Instead of filling up the meal plate with pizza and pasta during the first buffet run, go for vibrant veggies first. Bulking the plate up with veggies increases nutrient and fiber content without piling on calories.
After loading up on steamed veggies or creating a colorful salad from the salad bar, choose a lean protein source to help you feel satisfied long after eating. This could be grilled chicken breast, grilled burger, veggie burger, pork loin, eggs, or legumes.
If craving pizza or other favorite foods, keep it to a small quantity instead of binging on favorite foods. If you eat these after veggies, you likely won’t be as hungry to load up on these foods.
5. Don't Drink Your Calories
An easy tip for avoiding the Freshman 15 is to skip out on the sugary soft drinks and choose water, tea, or coffee. Making the switch may be hard for those who grew up on these sorts of beverages, so slowly limits their intake while implementing non-caloric drinks.
Your wallet will also thank you, as water and plain coffee are much cheaper than fancy cappuccinos!
6. Leave the Dining Area After Eating
Instead of consistently going back to the buffet following the first meal, head out for some studying, recreational sports, or a walk around campus.
Exiting after a nutritious meal reduces the opportunity of overeating and running directly to the dessert line. This practice can save hundreds of calories each day that contribute to the Freshman 15!
7. Grab Fruits on Your Way Out of the Dining Hall
Most college dining halls display a fruit basket or bowl. On your way out, grab a few pieces of fresh fruit for a nutritious snack throughout the day or for breakfast on a busy morning!
Having this fresh fruit on hand can eliminate the need to get a snack from a vending machine or dining hall on campus.
8. Pack A Filling Snack for Busy Days on Campus
Remember those pieces of fruit you grabbed at the dining hall? They come in handy when busy days arise!
When it comes to healthy snacks for college students, try to compliment a healthy carb with a protein source. A cheese stick and crackers, apple slices and peanut butter, or carrot sticks and hummus are all great options.
Keeping a snack on hand reduces those "hangry" feelings and helps to keep blood sugars and energy at bay. Sustaining energy can be vital in staying concentrated throughout classes and during studying.
9. Take Water With You on Campus
Water is often a forgotten piece of the health equation. However, staying hydrated is essential for nearly all body processes. Keep hydrated throughout college by traveling with your favorite water jug, as having it on hand is a constant reminder to drink more water!
Having water on hand can also help with tip five for not drinking your calories. Turn to a water bottle instead of soda, sweet tea, juices, lattes, etc. for fluids throughout the day.
10. Bike and Walk to Class When Possible
In addition to a healthy diet, also stay active to avoid the Freshman 15. Staying sedentary may be inevitable during classes and homework, but stay as active as possible outside these times.
For instance, walk or bike to campus and avoid shuttles if possible. Be sure to take study breaks to stretch out the legs and refresh the mind!
Most colleges and universities offer other activities such as team sports, run clubs, or fitness classes as other ways to unwind mentally. They are also a great way to meet others and get some much-needed exercise throughout college.
Eating Healthy in College Recap
Gaining the Freshman 15 can be avoided, and it is possible to eat good in college. Stock your dorm room, apartment, or living area with healthy, convenient foods that take minimal prep time. These might include apples, bananas, canned fish, Greek yogurt, nut butter, legumes, oats, brown rice, and whole-wheat pasta.
When eating in the dining halls, fill up on veggies before loading up on higher-calorie foods that look appealing. Keep the time spent at the dining hall just for eating; don’t always mingle there! And make sure to grab some fresh fruit on your way out to take with you as a portable, healthy snack on the go.
On campus, bring healthy snacks with you as well as a water bottle. This will minimize the need to eat out or from vending machines - which will likely leave you feeling ravenous when you get to the dining hall!
Lastly, be sure to walk or bike around campus when possible. Getting more movement in college is an important and easy way to avoid the Freshman 15.