We are a reader-supported education publication. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission to help us keep providing content.
Before heading to college, you must prepare for your many meal options. There will be a lot of opportunities to grab some fast food or skip a meal entirely. However, neither of these options are examples of healthy eating — and they could cause you trouble.
Why is eating healthy important for college students? Here is a look at why you need to take care of yourself at school.
Your Body Is Still Developing at 18
Many people start college at 17 or 18. It’s also possible you’re pretty advanced and started university even younger than that. However, this is precisely why a good relationship with food is critical.
Your bones will fuse and stop growing at around 20 years of age. That means you still have a bit of developing left to do by the time you begin higher education. Your skin and cartilage will likely change throughout your life as well. Keeping those healthy early is important — as well as supporting your bones as they reach the end of their growth.
Starting to care about your bodily health early can set you up for the future with a strong foundation. At the beginning of university schooling, it’s vital to round out those last growth years with a good diet.
The Brain Is Still Under Construction, Too
When people tell you your brain isn’t fully developed until 25, they may be misconstruing what that means. The human brain is about 85% of its adult size by the time you’re two, but its connections still need work in your late teens and early twenties.
Specifically, your prefrontal cortex will continue to change at this time. That part of the brain is where decision-making happens. By nourishing yourself well at college age, you could help promote proper brain development.
Before you’re 18, research shows eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and fish can lead to better academic achievement and cognition. Since your brain is still finishing its growth at this time, including these foods in your higher-ed diet could help it develop well.
Healthy Eating In College Can Improve Your Mental Health
The food you eat is the fuel your body uses to run itself. When you give yourself good nutrition, it can have a host of benefits for your mind. Naturally, your mental state can be worse when you introduce poor eating habits.
Having better nutrition can help your sleep, stress, focus, and even your mental state. When you sleep better, it can do a lot of the improvement work for you. Being tired makes it harder to focus, which can make you more anxious and depressed. However — as research shows — eating better can help you rest, which benefits your mental health.
Balance is the key to aiding your mental health with food. Combining healthy snacks with three daily meals can keep your energy up and avoid crashes.
You’ll Feel Better When You Nourish Yourself
Eating healthy is important for college students not only because of their development, but also for their functioning. You could feel worse and get sick more often when you make poor food decisions.
On the other hand, more proper meals can promote better academic performance, energy levels, stress management, and immune system function. Therefore, you could experience many benefits by taking in nourishing meals at a balanced rate. When you feel better, you could be more likely to attend class and focus once you’re there.
Instead of consuming more fast foods or nothing at all, having better food choices can help you feel healthier. Doing so can be necessary for intense experiences like moving into a dorm, extracurricular activities, and studying.
An Early Balanced Diet Is Essential for Lifelong Habits
As you could likely imagine, the life patterns you create at a young age are ones that can follow you for a long time. In fact, one study directly says healthy eating is essential at this time because you’re developing your lifestyle.
However, the study also notes it’s harder to get college students to have a balanced diet. They attribute this challenge to the new, busy lives they now live. At university, it’s much easier to grab something fast and greasy than prepare something nutritious. Not to mention, a dorm kitchen often isn’t the best place to cook. You might also start skipping meals entirely.
But the more you rely on not eating or fast foods, the more you’ll keep doing so. Because you’re creating habits at this age, finding more healthy ones can help you keep them for life.
The Importance of Healthy Eating for College Students
There are many reasons why eating healthy is crucial for college students. It’s essential for your body and brain’s growth, well-being, and future habits. If you want to increase your chances of success in college, start with your relationship with food.