Eating Healthy during College

College is usually the first time that a student has been away from home.  Most students have never had to cook or clean for themselves and it can be overwhelming.  Wanting to maintain a healthy diet is an admirable goal, and with a little effort it’s easily attainable.

Perhaps your first worry is that you’re on a limited budget and healthy food is expensive.  The fact of the matter is that dining out all the time is often more expensive and it’s not healthy.

So once you’ve gotten it into your head that you want to make your own healthy meals; the first step is to create a grocery list.  This is important because it will help you stick to a budget.  Have an idea of what you want to make for the week, and that’s what will go on the grocery list.  The list will help limit impulse buys which can often be where your expensive grocery trip comes from.  So make a list, create a budget, and stick to it.  It will be hard at first, but eventually you will become disciplined and it will become second nature.

Since you’re going to be shopping all the time, get a rewards card.  Most grocery stores have them now, and they are a great way to save money.  These are free cards that give you access to specials and sales prices.

Another trick to save money is to buy generic.  A lot of stores have their own brands for different products.  These brands are cheaper than the name brands but essentially the same exact thing.  Check out the labels between a store brand and a name brand and you’ll see that they are almost identical.

But wait.  You already know all this.  You’re just confused about healthy meals that you should be including on that list.

Whether you’re in college or not, everybody needs a balanced diet to keep them healthy. That means that what you heard about the food pyramid is true. You need protein, carbohydrates, vegetables, fruits, and fats. There are also certain vitamins and minerals that the body needs to remain healthy. With the added stress and odd hours that most college students have, keeping healthy is even more important when dealing with finals and deadlines.

So to maintain a balanced diet, you need to eat a combination of grains, fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, and healthy fats throughout the day.  When talking about healthy fats, this means things like olive oil and nuts not the greasy burger from your favorite fast food joint.

While talking about fast food, limit it.  It’s fine to have once in a while but fast food should never be thought of as a regular part of the diet.  If you do have to incorporate it, try to make healthier choices.  Try something that’s grilled instead of deep fried, or pick the salad instead.

Protein is an essential part of your diet, but meat can’t always be that source when you’re on a budget. Meat is expensive and unless you can find good sales prices, you may not be able to afford it. So in this case, you need to find different ways to get protein. Take the vegetarian approach and look at beans and nuts to supply you with the protein you need. Eggs are also another good cheap option.

Ideally you would be able to buy all of your fruits and veggies fresh, but that can become expensive rather quickly. That doesn’t include the problem of not being able to get something you want because it’s out of season. The solution to this is to head to the frozen aisle. Frozen fruits and veggies are much cheaper and just as good for you. The only thing you have to worry about is making sure that there aren’t any added sauces or seasonings because that’s when they may become unhealthy.  By buying berries all year round you can make your own smoothie in the morning by adding milk, yogurt, a banana and orange juice. This will save you from spending a ton of money on Starbucks every morning and getting all the extra calories that are hidden in their coffees.

You’ve heard your mother tell you for years to drink that glass of milk so that your bones will grow strong. Well don’t forget about dairy once you get to college. Your body still needs calcium and milk is a great source.

A lot of people will say to eliminate alcohol from your diet because it’s empty calories. What they mean is that is has no nutritional value. That’s true. However, it’s unrealistic to tell college students not to drink. What you want to realize is that you’re in it for the social aspect and not the drinks. Go to a party or bar and have a couple drinks. Don’t drink to get drunk. Alcohol in moderation can be healthy especially if you’re indulging in red wines.

Water is the magic elixir. You need to stay hydrated. Skin and other organs need water to work properly. Don’t wait around until you feel thirsty before you start drinking. People need eight glasses of water every day. Bring a water bottle to class instead of coffee or soda. This will also help to keep you feeling full so you’ll eat less because you won’t be mindlessly snacking in between meals.

Basically, if you want to eat healthy then you need to have healthy food on hand; it’s that simple. If you have junk food and fattening food surrounding you, you’ll be tempted to eat it. The more you eat it, the more you’ll crave it. It’s a horrible cycle but that’s how it goes. If, however, you stock up on healthy foods; fruits, veggies, crackers, whole wheat pasta, and peanut butter then you’ll start to crave healthy things when you want an afternoon snack.

The most important thing is finding out what will work for you. The first couple weeks of school are chaotic. You’re trying to figure out when you’ll have time for breaks and you’re making friends or catching up with old ones. Once things start to settle down, figure out when you can eat a full meal, when you’ll just have time to grab a snack, and when you’ll be able to work out. This will most likely vary every day but having a routine gets people focused on what they need to do each day and they’re more likely to reach their goals.