Going to college can be hectic: you have a different schedule than high school, you meet new people every day and you’re unfamiliar with your surroundings. With all of the added stress, who has time to worry about eating nutritiously? It's easy to forget to stay healthy in college, but making it a priority can actually make you a better student, so here are some tips for developing smart college eating habits.
Know What To Eat
To be nutritious, it’s important to first know what you should be eating. According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) you should consume approximately 2,000 calories a day consisting of six ounces of grains, three cups of dairy, five and a half ounces of protein, two cups of fruit and two and a half cups of vegetables. That's all well and good, but going through a cafeteria line, you don’t exactly have the means to measure out each ounce of food. That's why it's so important to know what a typical serving looks like. At choosemyplate.gov the USDA highlights helpful hints to help you identify how much of certain foods are needed to make a cup. For instance, they explain that sixteen grapes count as a half-cup of fruit. Having an idea of the amount of each food you should eat will help you maintain healthy eating habits.
A tip the USDA stresses is to make sure you don’t eat foods high in solid fats daily, so cookies, ice cream, cake, pizza and hot dogs are nutritional culprits to avoid. But when you see these items in the cafeteria day after day, it’s hard to stay away from them. To help, take a peek at the weekly school lunch menu. Make notes of when your favorite meals and desserts are being served so you will be prepared. If you know your favorite dish, that may not be the healthiest choice, will be made Wednesday, eat more nutritiously Monday and Tuesday. Everyone needs some wiggle room in their diet, and by having an idea of when you want to splurge, you’ll feel better and be more motivated to eat right until then.
Tell a friend
Talking to your friends about your concerns will increase your likeliness to stick to a well balanced diet. By telling someone that you only intend to eat one cookie, you’ll feel more committed to keeping your word. If you’re in it together and both want to keep well balanced diets, it will be easier stay committed if you have assurance from a friend on the days when you just want to pig out.
Whether you have a meal plan that allows you to buy food from a market, or you are going to the store to stock up your dorm room, beware of the tempting foods that lurk on each aisle. Until college, you may have never done the weekly grocery shopping for your house. Having the freedom to get anything your taste buds desire is a bit overwhelming.
First, go to the store with a plan of attack. Write a list of everything you’ll need to avoid aimlessly wandering. Second, prepare yourself by going shopping on a full stomach. Feeling full will help you avoid buying too much food. Third, take trips to the grocery store when you have an allotted amount of time. It will keep you focused on just the things on your list and stop you from making a wrong turn down the candy aisle!
Stock Up on the Right Foods
Everyone has those busy days that make it impossible to get to the cafeteria during open hours. By stocking up on quick and healthy options like Healthy Choice or Lean Cuisine meals, you can opt for one of these meals rather than resorting to unhealthy fast food. If your cafeteria allows you to take fruit out, always take an extra to leave in your dorm for a great study snack.
If you keep these tips in mind, you’ll be less likely to stray off a healthy eating path, and you’ll be developing smart college eating habits. With just a few acts of self-awareness and discipline, you can feel great and maintain healthy eating through college and beyond. .
Header image credit: Bruce A Stockwell