College. It can be one of the most challenging and rewarding times of your life. But it’s also hard work as you try to juggle classes, homework, perhaps a job, and of course, maintaining an active social life. I would know, I had to walk that line during my formative years at Wake Forest University. Let’s face it, most college students don’t exactly eat right; they often go for the mac and cheese, frozen pizza, and the food staple of every college dorm, ramen noodles, instead of something that can be far more nutritious and healthy.
But it doesn’t have to be that way, even if money is tight and you’re short on time, the two most widely used reasons why students neglect a proper diet. Well you just ran out of excuses, because we’ve got five easy tips for healthy eating when you’re away at school.
- Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
Eat all three, especially breakfast. The old cliché is true, it really is the most important meal of the day. It’s also the most overlooked as students are usually running late to that early 8am class. But you really must try not to skip that first meal, or any other meal, because it can lead to you becoming hungry and grabbing whatever might be at arm’s length. Unfortunately, that’s usually potato chips and soda or a quick Hot Pocket in the microwave, and none of those things are good substitutes.
- Keep Healthier Snacks Around
Okay, so maybe the first tip is going to be a tough one to follow everyday. Fair enough. So instead of the Doritos and Totinos, try to stock up on snacks that are healthier for you when you end up having to grab something quick to curb your hunger from missing lunch. Keep some items on hand like peanut butter, protein bars, string cheese, berries, and other foods that won’t fill you with empty calories and exacerbate the fact that you skipped a meal.
- Be Realistic
I’m not naïve enough to think that every college student is going to completely eschew junk food…nor should they! College campuses and the towns that surround them are usually a smorgasbord of unhealthy foods. Wings, pizza, burgers, and plenty of beer for the over 21 crowd are all in ample supply. The trick is trying to navigate that landscape with some thought to keeping it healthy. Order a turkey burger instead of a regular one, maybe get that pizza without extra cheese.
- Shop Smart
When you hit the supermarket, shop with an eye towards a smart diet. Find the healthier versions of your favorite foods on the shelves – they do exist. Buy the spaghetti sauce that has less sodium, the mac and cheese that uses skim milk products, the reduced fat hot dogs. Don’t worry, they will all taste just the same as the other stuff and you’ll be doing your body a big favor in the process.
- Maintain a Balance
You’re going to cram cookies and eat spray cheese at 3am no matter what I say. That’s fine. But do try to keep some kind of balance between the bad stuff and the good stuff. For every one of those all-nighters that has you stuffing your face, try to eat a salad or something rich in proteins and fiber. There are plenty of easy to make recipes online that incorporate rice, beans, vegetables, and proteins. Do some research. You’re at college, you should be used to that by now.