College isn’t exactly known for being the healthiest time of our lives—there’s dining hall food, late night snacking, and sometimes the freedom of choosing our own meals proves to be overwhelming. I believe that it’s possible for everyone to eat healthy in college, if they spend just a little time making that effort.
I’ve lived in a dorm room the past 2 years with a dining hall meal plan, so I get it. It takes a little practice to get in the hang of making these choices, but with a couple of my simple tips, I think you too could become a pro at this healthy eating thing while you’re in college.
Keep reading for my 5 tips to eating healthy in college…
- Keep it simple. Walk into any dining hall on campus and you will see all sorts of crazy foods that appeal to the typical 20-year old. Mac & cheese, chicken nuggets, French fries, mozzarella sticks, it’s like every child’s dream in the dining hall. Sometimes we run a little wild because there are “NO RULES”, and we end up with a plate that has every single option on it. Think about the balanced plate drawing we had to do as kids—the one that had proteins, grains, veggies and fruits on it. Go into the dining hall with this kind of mindset. Pick lean proteins and whole grains if they’re available, and always load up on veggies. If you go to dinner thinking about how you’ll make your plate a simple, balanced meal, you’ll be making healthier choices without having to think too much about it.
- Take charge of your eating. This is for all of you living in a dorm with limited (if any) access to a kitchen. One thing that has absolutely been the key to staying on track in the dorms is having access to healthier alternatives in my own room. I always have healthy snacks on hand: carrots & hummus, string cheese, yogurt, popcorn, etc. This comes from the logic that if it’s available to me, I will eat it. If it’s healthy, even better. I also really enjoy prepping some of my meals in the communal kitchen of my dorm. This way, if I’m really not in the mood for any dining hall food, I can grab some prepared grilled chicken and brown rice out of my mini fridge. It’s like takeout, just a little healthier!
- Don’t be afraid to ask for what YOU want. If you want to eat healthy in the dining hall, it’s really important that you’re able to advocate for yourself. A lot of the time, you’ll see me in the dining hall at the grill, asking the workers to make me a grilled chicken sandwich without the bread. When chicken breasts aren’t being offered in the regular entrees section, this is a great option. Getting the chicken allows me to make a huge salad with some protein, or to get rice and beans from a different station and have an easy, healthy meal.
- Eat a variety of foods/try new things. The first time I ever tried Quinoa was in the dining hall. I knew it was healthy but for whatever reason hadn’t tried it. I love it now! Eating healthy requires a number of things and one of them is variety. If you eat the same thing time and time again, you’ll get bored and won’t want to continue to eat that way, no matter how healthy it is. Take advantage of having someone else preparing food for you and experiment with the things they serve. You never know when you’ll find a new favorite.
- Maintain balance and moderation. This is the most important tip I could give you. Eating healthy is part of a healthy lifestyle and it should be treated as such. There should never be pressure to eat a certain food or a certain way. Eating healthy is about doing what’s good for your body, but maintaining balance and moderation in your life is about doing what’s good for your soul. Balance to me means eating healthy and working out the majority of the time because you love it and how it makes you feel. It also means that you can take a break from the gym and treat yourself sometimes without it being the end of the world. This is the only time you’re young and in college, so take advantage of that. Go out with friends and have an amazing meal, make some memories! Living a healthy lifestyle is recognizing that you need both moderation and healthy eating to create an ideal balance in your life. That’s what it’s all about right?