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Following healthy eating tips for college students can be challenging when you’re on your own. As a student, you may not have access to your own kitchen or be able to make frequent visits to the grocery store. You’re also under a lot of stress, which can make it hard to choose healthy options.
However, with the right habits, it is definitely possible for you to make healthy choices while at school. Here are five tips for how to eat well as a college student.
1. Avoid Fad Diets
Although it might look good on the packaging, fad diets like skinny teas and cleanses are not the way to develop a healthy body and mind. More often than not, dieting focuses too much on short term-gains at the expense of the bigger nutritional picture.
While following a diet can be helpful in some cases, there are more effective, holistic ways to get in shape. For instance, getting enough sleep, avoiding fried and sugary foods, and exercising in moderation are all foundational elements of good health.
Following healthy eating tips for college students will change your body in many positive ways. Good food can help with hormonal balance, better focus and memory, and improved mood. You may notice skin blemishes healing faster and better resilience to stress. There are so many good reasons to eat well beyond just losing weight.
2. Assess Your Meals
It’s helpful to have a basic understanding of nutrition before you start trying to plan a healthy diet. In general, a healthy diet is high in vegetables, fruit, protein, and healthy fats. If you have any food allergies, you may need to adjust your meals to ensure you’re getting enough nutrients.
Food is much more complicated than the simple categories of protein, dairy, grains, etc. In addition to vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates, many plants have phytonutrients that can improve your vitality. Eating a variety of whole foods and avoiding processed foods will help you get more nutrition out of your meals.
Assessment is the first step toward eating well at school. Take a week and write down everything you eat after classes start. See if any patterns emerge and what types of food you tend to eat the most. Then, you can start to make small changes toward a healthier diet – like adding a vegetable to each meal or switching from sugary drinks to water.
3. Prep Healthy Snacks
Snacking can be the best thing or the worst thing for your healthy meal plan. If you keep a stash of salty chips and chocolate bars at your dorm, that’s what you’ll eat when you get stressed or feel hungry at the end of the day.
You can be proactive about eating well by only buying healthy snacks so that it’s easy to make good choices when you’re tired. Some good snack ideas include fresh chopped veggies, hummus, low-sugar and sodium granola bars, nuts, whole fruits, roasted chickpeas, and tuna pouches with whole wheat crackers.
Healthy snacks might not sound appetizing at first, but they’ll grow on you as you change your eating habits. For instance, grapes are super sweet to someone who’s eating a low-sugar diet. Having healthy snacks also means you can treat yourself intentionally while maintaining a healthy balance in your diet.
4. Know Your Triggers
While you may want to eat well, it’s very easy to change your mind when you feel stressed, tired, or lonely. However, eating unhealthy foods in these situations will ultimately make you feel worse and drain your energy for the next day.
Instead of reaching for a snack, keep a list of restorative things you can do before snacking when you’re tired or stressed. For instance, your list could include taking a shower, calling a friend, or taking a ten-minute nap. Try to make these options as personally appealing as possible.
Make good choices easy for yourself by identifying your triggers and creating a system to help yourself out when you’re too tired or stressed to think. As a college student, it’s your job to parent yourself by noticing what your body needs and meeting that need with gentleness.
5. Listen to Your Body
Healthy eating tips for college students are different for everyone because every individual’s body and physiological needs are unique. While there are principles of general nutrition that apply to everyone, some diet decisions are more personal.
For instance, you may notice that sugar makes you feel sick. So for you, eating a low-sugar diet is the best way to reduce stress on your body and feel good throughout your day. However, your friends may eat a lot of sugar because it doesn’t bother them.
As you experiment to find the foods that make you feel your best, look for friends who will support your diet decisions. Your choices for nutrition are not a judgment on how others are eating, and it will be much easier to stick to your goals if you have a supportive group of friends.
Every Improvement Matters
Eating well is essential to good health, but there is no perfect diet. Instead, a healthy diet is made up of small choices that have the overall goal of fueling your body well so you can make the most of your day.
Stay focused on why you want to eat well, and celebrate your successes throughout the semester. When you do choose to eat unhealthy foods, enjoy them fully. You’re growing, and each step you take is an investment in a healthier future.