You’ve enjoyed an entire summer of fresh and nutritious home cooked meals—which can make going back to your college dining hall seem like a big demotion.
As tempting as the all-you-can-eat meal plan can be, it’s important to maintain healthy eating habits while you’re in college. Studies have shown as many as 7 out of 10 college students gain weight during the course of earning a four-year degree.
Here are our six best tips for avoiding the Freshman 15 and staying healthy throughout your college experience.
Tip #1 - Hit Up the Salad Bar
Most college dining halls offer a salad bar, so don’t be afraid to make one meal a day heavy on the veggies or add a side salad to your piece of pizza rather than that buttery breadstick. Just remember to start with a solid foundation of greens and other vegetables before you add on the cheese and dressing.
Tip #2 - Ditch the Trays
When you have an entire tray to fill up, it can be tempting to pile on too much food. Then, once you’ve paid for your tray, you might feel obligated to eat everything, even after you’re full. Instead of grabbing a tray, try just grabbing a plate. Reducing your space for food can help control portions.
Tip #3 - Keep Healthy Snacks in Your Dorm
College is busy and you might not always have time to grab a full meal in between classes. To make sure you don’t overeat when you finally get the chance, keep healthy snacks in your dorm room that you can easily grab on the go. Granola bars, fruit and trail mix are all great options.
Tip #4 - Avoid Binge Drinking
We’re not saying you shouldn’t have a social life, but binge drinking isn’t good for your body and neither is the junk food you’re more likely to consume when you’re under the influence. Late night beer and pizza is almost more symbolic of college than classes and textbooks, but that doesn’t mean you have to live up to the stereotype.
If you do choose to drink, do so responsibly. Assuming you’re of legal drinking age, buy something you actually enjoy, even if it means paying a few dollars more, so you’ll consume it more slowly. Make sure you have a glass of water between beverages. Not only will this help you drink less, it will keep you hydrated so you won’t have to suffer through a hangover the next morning.
Tip #5 - Look Up Nutrition Information
With more and more colleges make the effort to encourage a healthy lifestyle, dining hall nutrition information is becoming readily available. Check online or ask your dining hall manager where you can find this information that can help you make a good choice.
Tip #6 - Don’t Skip Breakfast
It can be a challenge to get up early if your classes don’t start until the afternoon, but making time for breakfast can help get the rest of your day off on the right foot, boost your metabolism and keep you from overeating at your next meal. Find a friend with an early class and offer to meet them—that way, you can start your day with a healthy meal and some socializing.
College eating definitely comes with more temptations, but a little extra planning and preparedness can help keep you on track to eating healthy.
Want more tips? Download our free guide, “Healthy Eating in 5 Steps.”