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Going to college may or may not be your first introduction to adult life. One thing is for sure — you’ll still have to eat. How you nourish yourself influences your energy level, maybe even your grades. Fortunately, you don’t have to follow many rules to get healthy eating in college right.
Every mealtime involves choices — make more of the better ones, and your overall well-being will improve. Here are five tips for healthy eating in college that will keep you fueled all semester long.
1. Make Your Plate a Clock
Your dinner plate is probably round like a clock — it shouldn’t take too much imagination to visualize it as one. Your job is to fill half of it with fresh fruits and vegetables. Nearly every college cafeteria has a salad bar to make healthy eating a breeze. You don’t even have to do the chopping and dicing.
To ensure the widest variety of nutrients, select vegetables and fruits in various colors. These correspond to different phytonutrient compounds, which benefit human health in various ways. For example, lutein and zeaxanthin, two well-known phytonutrients, are critical for maintaining your eyesight.
2. Try a Variety at the Caff
Most colleges have students attending from all over the world, and they strive to offer various dishes from multiple regions. Your cafeteria might be a veritable smorgasbord of new cuisines you’ve never tried before. Be brave — make the ethnic tables an absolute must when you go and sample a new dish every day.
You might reap considerable health benefits. For example, much Indian cuisine contains a lot of turmeric. This antioxidant herb contains curcumin, one of the best natural anti-inflammatories you can find. Chowing down on more curry could ease your chronic pain.
Eating a wide variety of foods is another way to increase your overall micronutrient intake. Many Americans get plenty of calories but lag in various antioxidants and phytonutrients. Look for those that are either raw — as in fruits and veggies — or cooked without excess butter and oils.
Learn how to read cooking terms. For example, you do well to choose foods prepared the following ways:
Conversely, try to pass on foods that are deep fried, overly breaded or both. Frying adds unnecessary fat and calories. Some starchy foods, like potatoes, can produce acrylamide if fried until brown. White flour manufacturing produces a chemical byproduct called alloxan that can increase your diabetes risk.
3. Choose Healthy Snacks
College life means fueling yourself through countless all-nighters — and that means keeping snacks on hand. Make sure the ones you choose offer some nutritional value and not merely empty calories.
In general, the less processed your food is, the healthier it will be. Ultra-processed foods, like corn chips, are unrecognizable from their natural forms. The manufacturing process strips away much of the nutrition, leaving behind fillers and additives that pack on unwanted pounds — like the dreaded freshman 15 — without improving your health.
Carrot and celery sticks are wise choices, as is hummus to dip them in. Chickpeas provide a rich source of plant-based protein that can keep you fuller longer.
Air-popped popcorn is a fabulous alternative to the bagged, microwaved stuff. You can dress it up with dozens of toppings to add flavor without unwanted trans fats.
String cheese is excellent to keep on hand for quick protein and calcium. Nuts and seeds provide valuable minerals like zinc, magnesium and selenium, vital for proper neurological functioning.
4. Elevate Your Ramen
Most college students live on a steady ramen diet because it’s cheaper than many options. The noodles alone won’t provide much more than empty calories. However, you can make it healthier.
Throw in a handful of red pepper flakes and shaved cucumber for a tangy and cool Asian crunch. Some sliced chicken or leftover holiday turkey fills you up on a cold winter’s night. A few lentils add plant-based protein without ramping up your calorie count much.
5. Drink Smart
College doesn’t mean accepting every keg party invitation you receive. If you choose to drink, please do so in moderation — no more than one or two drinks per day. Please avoid the temptation to binge drink. It can have severe unintended health consequences.
You need to stay hydrated, however. One investment every college student should make is a reusable water bottle. You can find impressive ones these days that come with attached Bluetooth speakers — go as fancy as you like if you have the means. The crucial thing is the visual reminder to sip up throughout the day.
Healthy Eating in College
Going away to university might be your introduction to adult life — and choices. Even if you have been in the world for a while, choosing the right foods can improve your overall performance. Master healthy eating in college with the five above tips.