Congratulations! Either you, your friend, or a member of your family is off to college or university. The campus lifestyle is one of adventure. It could be the first time you have ever lived alone and made your own meals. Cheeseburgers, nachos, and beer are just around the corner. Eating the foods you’ve always dreamed of can have one BIG effect- increasing your waistline. The “freshman 15” is the term used for new students who gain a lot of weight through their schooling days. With some tips you can make better choices and ward off those unwanted pounds. The key is moderation, not a “diet”. Eating a big greasy hamburger once in a while is perfectly okay! You just need to watch what you eat on a regular basis so that eating poorly won’t effect you negatively. This is the time in your life that you will gain the habits that will last through your adult years. Start eating right now and it won’t be difficult later. We came up with our top 10 tips for eating healthy on campus.
1. Make A Schedule. Staying out late and studying in the early morning is rough on the body. Try to keep partying to one night a week so that you have time to recover and get all your school work done. Make a schedule of all your classes, meal times, and late night activities. This skill will help you balance assignment due dates and keep you eating a regular 3 meals a day.
2. Use The School Resources. Many schools offer free or reduced health care for their students. If there is an on campus health center, check out the possibility of meeting with a nutritionist. They will know the foods available on campus and can give you a plan for eating healthy. Additionally, check out the school gym. The fee is usually much less compared to other gyms and it’s right near by (so no excuses!). And ladies, fit is back in style so go get buff.
3. Skip the Fancy Coffee. Between classes it might be tempting to grab that venti-mocha-chino-caramello-extra foam-latte. Fancy drinks are usually packed with sugar and cream. You could be drinking over 700 calories! Skip the fancy stuff and just get a regular coffee. If you want something extra, see if they have sugar free flavor shots.
4. Stay Away From Deep Fried. That tofu salad might look delicious and healthy, but if it’s fried tofu then you could be eating a lot more calories than you want. If you’re eating fast food, order the grilled chicken and not the breaded one. You save calories not having the breading, and it’s less fat. Replace the fries on the side with a salad. I’ve actually seen a friend get scurvy at college, so eat your vegetables!
5. Don’t Do Lunch Dates. It might be tempting to meet friends for lunch at a restaurant, but go for coffee instead. Not only are you paying a premium for restaurant food, but there are hidden calories lurking. Many restaurants pack their food with butter and salt because it tastes great. Even a salad could have higher calories than a hamburger! If you do eat out, look for grilled meats with a garden salad. Getting coffee instead would be better for your waistline and better for your wallet.
6. Make Your Own Food. If you’re living in an on campus dorm, chances are you can’t have anything food appliance related in your room besides a mini fridge. If your floor has a kitchen, make good use of it. Get a cookbook from the library, or use our Half Hour Meals website for simple recipes even an amateur could make. Always cook extra portions so you have meals for the rest of the week. A favorite college recipe is to cook a ton of pasta, pour in tomato sauce, and fry up ground meat with vegetables. Keep it in the pot in the refrigerator for prepared meals the rest of the week. Oh and stay away from ramen if you can- it’s full of sodium and msg.
7. Get A Half Portion. If you’re eating at the school cafeteria, you might be getting way too much in your meal. My university had an amazing pasta station- you chose a whole bowl of vegetables and they cooked it with sauce and pasta for you. Pack the bowl sky high and ask for a half portion of pasta. You get just as much food if you’re smart with vegetable stacking. If you can’t ask for a half portion, take half of it home with you for another meal.
8. Snack Wisely. With late nights and early classes, coffee never seems good enough to keep you awake. Resist going for that chocolate bar for sugar calories, and instead fill up on good carbohydrates. Keep healthy granola bars in your backpack for those desperate times. Some cafeterias also have candy stations, with tubs of sugary treats right at your finger tips. Resist! These empty calories will do nothing for you. If you want something sweet and gummy, buy some dried fruit. Dried strawberries taste great and have the perfect gummy texture. They’re a treat though, so don’t overdo it.
9. Drink Responsibly. Stay away from the binge drinking culture at many schools. While most students won’t take part, you might find yourself at a party with that attitude. Drinking to be sick is never fun, nor is it glamorous. Make a plan before you go on a low number of drinks you want to have. Stick to that number and don’t let peer pressure get to you. Beer is also high in calories, so go for the light kinds if possible. You can have fun without hurting your health.
10. Don’t Smoke. This is a simple one, but don’t smoke. Some people pick up smoking cigarettes to skip meals, thinking that they’ll lose weight. This is a very unhealthy habit and it will cost your health when you’re older. Also be aware that smoking “other” things is unhealthy too (and illegal)! Any smoke in your lungs can damage them and lead to cancer. Not only that, but you’ll get the munchies and eat unhealthy things. None of that’s good, so just stay away!