How to Eat Healthy in College

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In this article

The college experience is one of the most important and life-changing experiences of your life. You’re graduating from high school, transitioning from teenhood to adulthood, and major changes are headed your way.

However, something that isn’t talked about enough is eating healthy and having a healthy lifestyle in college. We’re so busy adjusting to the real world, new responsibilities, and course loads that we often forget that our health is just as important to maintain as our grades. Well, forget no more. I am here for all you college students who need a reminder.

Today’s article is all about health in college: how to eat healthy in college and stay healthy. I will discuss everything from health as a lifestyle to eating healthy in college, prioritizing yourself, remaining healthy after college, and more. I will even give you tips on how to incorporate a healthy lifestyle into your college lifestyle without breaking the bank and/or interrupting your studies.

Going to college is a special time for students, one that should be experienced through and through, but it shouldn’t take precedence over your health. So, as you get ready to head into your years of higher learning, remember that while your studies are important, your health is, too, and I am here to help guide you through some of the best and healthiest years of your life!

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health as a lifestyle

Health as a Lifestyle

To start, living a healthy lifestyle involves making conscious choices that support overall well-being. This includes regular exercise, balanced nutrition, adequate sleep, stress management, and avoiding harmful habits like smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.

And listen, I, too, was once an undergrad, so I know how easy it is to get lost in the late nights, parties, and school activities that take time away from priorities, but it’s important to prioritize self-care and establish healthy habits, as well.

And it’s not as difficult as it seems. I think the hardest part is starting, but little steps add up, and soon enough, you’ll be living a healthy, well-balanced personal and college life. Let’s talk about some key elements of eating good foods in college.

Whole Foods vs. Fast Food

Let’s start with the basics: whole foods and fast foods. Knowing the difference between the two will make that much more of a difference when it comes to food. And I know it’s not at the top of the priority list here in college, but a balanced diet, full of nutritional value, will make that much more of a difference.

Now, whole foods are foods that are rich in nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They are minimally processed and are as close to their natural state as possible. Examples of whole foods include, but are not limited to, fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, lean meat, nuts, and seeds. Consuming whole foods can provide numerous health benefits and support overall well-being.

On the contrary, fast food are foods that are highly processed, high in calories, full of unhealthy fats, sodium, and added sugars. Examples of fast foods are, but are not limited to, burgers, fried foods, high-sugar cereal, potato chips coffee, alcohol, and snacks. Fast food regularly has been linked to various health issues such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic conditions.

Other whole foods include:

  • Chicken (baked or grilled chicken)
  • Beans
  • Eggs
  • Grains
  • Cheese
  • Milk
  • Fish
  • Lean beef
  • Wheat bread
  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Fresh fruits
  • Brown rice
  • Leafy greens

If we’re comparing whole foods to fast food, whole foods are definitely the healthier choice because of their nutrient density and lower levels of unhealthy additives. Eating whole foods with every meal can help improve your health and energy levels and support weight management.

Life is all about balance, right? So, indulging in a fast-food meal every once in a while is totally okay. Some health professionals even believe that fast foods have their own benefits.

But it’s still important to prioritize whole foods as the foundation of a balanced diet. If you ever have any questions, don’t be afraid to reach out to health administrators on campus or seek advice from a health and fitness professional.

ways of eating healthy

Best Ways of Eating Healthy in College

Now, I’m no fool. It’s simple in theory, but I know eating healthy in college can be challenging. Between new course loads, busy schedules, and limited funds, investing in a healthy college lifestyle can seem like another daunting task, but don’t let it deter you. Here are some ways you can implement a nutritious diet into your college and everyday life. Let me show you:

  1. Plan to Succeed: Take the time to plan your meals and snacks for the week. This can help you make healthier choices and avoid impulse eating.
  2. Stock Up on Healthy Snacks: Keep your dorm room or apartment stocked with healthy food choices for smart snacking like fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, eggs, nuts, and seeds.
  3. Make Simple Meals: Since time can be limited, go for quick and easy meals that require minimal preparation, like an omelet for a healthy breakfast, salads, sandwiches, stir-fries, and smoothies.
  4. Use Campus Resources: Take advantage of your campus’s dining options that offer healthy choices, like using the salad bar, grilled options, and fresh fruits and vegetables.
  5. Meal Prep: Prepping your meals for the week can be a major help. This will not only save you time and money, but it will also ensure you have nutritious meals on hand.
  6. Stay Hydrated: Drink lots of water throughout the day to stay hydrated and avoid sugary beverages.
  7. Limit Junk Food: While it's okay to indulge occasionally, try to limit your intake of unhealthy options that lack nutrients and are full of sugar, saturated fat, and empty calories.
  8. Get Creative: Experiment with different recipes and ingredients to keep your meals interesting and enjoyable.

Like anything else, a healthy lifestyle can be a journey, so implementing these strategies into your daily routine little by little can lead you to a life of healthier choices and a balanced diet. Having one while navigating the challenges of college life is just the cherry on top.

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Maintaining a Healthy Diet

I’ve always said the hardest part of any journey is starting, but once you start, it’s hard to stop. That doesn’t mean you won’t have a period where you might fall off, though. Maintaining a healthy diet is key to good health and well-being. It provides the body with essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals needed for optimal functioning. But how exactly do you stay on track?

For one, keeping track of your nutrient intake by making sure your macronutrients are met is key. This ensures that your body receives the right amount of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals your body needs. Which also ties to weight management. Eating a balanced diet can help you maintain a healthy weight or achieve weight loss goals, reducing the risk of obesity and related health conditions.

Your diet also plays a huge role in disease prevention. Filling your body with rich foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc., can help lower the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. It boosts your energy levels. Consuming nutritious foods provides the brain and body with the energy they need to perform daily activities, exercise, and maintain overall vitality.

But most importantly, it helps your mental well-being. The right foods positively impact mental health, cognitive function, and mood stability, which can only help you live a long, healthy life. Research shows that individuals who follow a healthy diet have a lower risk of premature death and may enjoy a longer, healthier life. So, don't forget to eat breakfast and if you want to drink alcohol do so responsibly!

Ways to Prioritize Your Health in College

Prioritizing your health in college is extremely important, but it isn’t talked about enough. When you’re young, you don’t realize how your intake of food and drinks affects your body, but it catches up to you eventually. Prioritizing your health is only elevating your well-being during a time that can be demanding and stressful. Here are some ways I prioritized my health while studying that I hope work for you, too:

  1. Get into a Routine: Having a routine can make prioritizing your health that much easier. It will help keep you on track with your meals and schoolwork.
  2. Follow Nutritional/Fitness Pages: Surrounding yourself with positive influences is important when on a health journey, especially in college. Follow fitness and health pages on your social media for inspiration and information to stay motivated.
  3. Exercise Regularly: Regular physical activity can help you prioritize your health. Whether it be walking for 30 minutes a day or joining a yoga class once or twice a week, adding exercise to your routine can set you up for success.
  4. Sleep!: Yes, that’s right. Getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night improves both physical and mental well-being.
  5. Avoid Harmful Habits: I know it’s college, and everyone wants to experiment, but do your best to avoid harmful habits like excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, and drug use.
  6. Seek Support: Use your school’s resources available on campus, such as counseling services, health centers, and student organizations focused on health and wellness.

Of course, there are more ways to prioritize your health in college, but this is just a start! Finding what works for you is the best way to set yourself up for success, and that includes your routines.

Strategies to Maintain a Healthy Diet

With the end of the school year right around the corner, students are anticipating the start of their college career in the next few months, which is exciting, but it’s also a big change. 

You might already know that the average college student doesn't always make the healthiest choices, and we've all heard of (or perhaps experienced first-hand) the infamous Freshman 15, so maintaining a healthy diet can help prevent any of those health challenges. Here are some strategies that can help you achieve and sustain a healthy eating pattern:

  1. Eat a Variety of Nutrient-Dense Foods: Include a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats in your diet to ensure you are getting a wide range of essential nutrients.
  2. Portion Control: Pay attention to portion sizes and avoid overeating. Use smaller plates, measure serving sizes, and listen to your body's hunger and fullness cues.
  3. Limit Processed Foods and Added Sugars: Limit your consumption of processed foods, sugary beverages, and snacks high in added sugars, salt, and unhealthy fats.
  4. Mindful Eating: Practice mindful eating by paying attention to your food choices, eating slowly, and savoring each bite. This can help prevent overeating and promote better digestion.

These strategies can help improve your daily routine and help you establish a healthy diet that supports your health goals.

Benefits of a Healthy Diet

I know I’ve focused a lot on the physical benefits of eating healthily in college, but I can’t forget how it benefits your life, especially during your time at school. It’s easy to assume a good, balanced diet and lifestyle helps your body stay in shape, but it affects everything in your life. Here are some benefits of a healthy diet:

  • Gives you more energy
  • Helps build muscle memory
  • Promotes better memory
  • Helps you stay focused
  • Keeps skin, teeth, and eyes healthy
  • Maintains a healthy brain
  • Supports digestive system
  • Strengthens your bones
  • Helps you live longer
  • Lowers your risk for health problems
  • Keeps you looking and feeling good
  • Boosts your confidence
  • Inspires other

The list goes on, but these are key benefits to eating healthy foods, and I promise, if you start in college, you’ll be on your way to reaching the highest, healthiest and best version of yourself in no time.

healthy eating

Tips for Eating Healthy in College

Eating healthy in college can be challenging due to busy schedules and tempting night outs with friends, ending with late-night snacking and fast foods. And I’m not saying you can’t ever indulge in comfort foods like burgers, pizzas, and French fries; I’m saying there should be a balance, especially in college. Here are my tips to help you maintain a healthy diet while in college:

  • Plan your meals
  • Keep healthy and nutritious snacks in your room, apartment, bag, etc.
  • Use your school’s cafeteria
  • Choose balanced meals (i.e., fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats
  • Make smart choices in your dining hall.
  • Stay hydrated
  • Limit sugar and processed food intake
  • Keep up with your regular health check-ups
  • Follow influential health pages
  • Get creative with cooking
  • Experiment with your routines
  • Practice mindful eating
  • Never leave home without healthy foods or snacks
  • Steer clear of sports drinks, energy drinks, coffee and soda

Of course, you want to incorporate exercise into your healthy lifestyle, but it starts with intake. As long as you prioritize healthy eating, your physical activity will only push your goals that much further.

staying healthy after college

Staying Healthy After College

All of this is to say that being healthy is a lifestyle that doesn’t begin or end with college. If you can create a healthy way of life in college, you can definitely maintain it after you finish your education. Transitioning from college to the workforce can bring about new changes and adjustments in lifestyle and routine.

Just like your move from high school to college, it can be disruptive, but it is another opportunity to stay on track with your goals. Here are some reasons why staying healthy after college is important:

  1. Long-Term Health Benefits: Establishing healthy habits early on can have long-term benefits for your physical and mental health. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk of chronic diseases and improve your overall quality of life as you age.
  2. Improved Energy and Productivity: Prioritizing health through regular exercise, balanced nutrition, and adequate sleep can boost energy levels and enhance productivity in both personal and professional life.
  3. Stress Management: Post-college life can come with new challenges and responsibilities, leading to increased stress. Staying healthy through stress management techniques can help you cope better with these challenges and maintain mental well-being.
  4. Financial Savings: Investing in your health early on can lead to potential cost savings in the long run by reducing healthcare expenses associated with preventable illnesses.
  5. Social and Emotional Well-Being: Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can positively impact your social relationships and emotional well-being, leading to a more fulfilling and balanced life after college.

Prioritizing your health and wellness after college can help you set a strong foundation for a successful and fulfilling future. Start incorporating healthy habits into your daily routine and watch this new phase of life fill itself with a confidence you’ve never had before.

eating healthy in college

Frequently Asked Questions on Eating Healthy in College

Why is it important to eat healthy in college?

While there are many reasons why eating healthy is important, the overall importance is to create a healthy, sustainable lifestyle that allows you to improve your health during your college years.

We all know college studies demand a good portion of your time and attention, which makes it difficult to keep up with your daily diet, amongst other things, but incorporating healthy foods and habits can help you create a well-balanced personal and school life.

What are some ways to eat healthy while in school?

There are plenty of ways to eat healthy while in school, some of which are more important than others. For instance, planning your week of meals, using your school’s meal plan, choosing nutrient-dense foods over highly processed or sugary foods, limiting the intake of fast foods, exercising a few times a week, surrounding yourself with health-positive information, asking for guidance from a health professional and being mindful of your portion control are all ways to eat and stay healthy during your college years.

How can you stay healthy after college?

While eating healthy and maintaining a well-balanced diet in college is important, the journey shouldn’t be limited to your college years. On the contrary, being healthy is a lifestyle that you should keep even after college.

The earlier you embark on a health journey, the longer it can be sustained and easier for it to maintain. Eating and practicing healthy habits has it challenges, but if you use your resources and prioritize your well-being, you can achieve both health and personal goals.

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