College students who live on campus are largely at the mercy of the college or university food service when it comes to the things from which they can choose to eat. We all hear warnings from former college students, parents, doctors and other professionals about the dreaded “freshman 15,” the fifteen pounds that it is said that many college students gain that first semester or year of college.
We know much more than we did 25 years ago, a decade ago, and even as few as five years ago, and a diligent and disciplined college student can eat a very healthy diet despite the temptations that they will inevitably face on a constant daily basis.
Commit to choosing healthy options
If you are committed to choosing healthy options, you will not be as tempted by the less healthy options. At each meal, make an effort to get your protein, grains, fruits, vegetables and fats in. Be careful of the types of fat you choose.
What constitutes ‘healthy? Here are some examples:
Making health meal choices
Look for meat, fish or poultry that is grilled, broiled or baked. Go for a grilled burger from time to time if that is all there is. Skip the bun and all the unhealthy toppings. Things that are fried or cooked in high calorie sauces are not going to be as healthy as something simpler. Look for vegetable choices that aren’t fried or cooked in high calorie sauces. If necessary, look to the salad bar for raw vegetables. Be careful of things like salad toppings and dressings.
Don’t skip meals
Skipping meals leads to ravenous hunger. When you are that hungry, you aren’t going to think about what you should be eating. You’ll be looking to grab the nearest item of food that will stave off that hunger. If you have to skip a meal, look for something healthy to tide you over. Yogurt, fruit, cheese, nuts and dried fruit are all good choices.
Avoid the temptation of junk food
It doesn’t matter whether you live in the dorm or off campus with friends; there will always be some sort of temptation to lure you into some unhealthy eating patterns. Students order pizza, go out for late night snacks, drinks or whatever else. If you don’t let yourself get so hungry that you’ll give into temptation, you can avoid falling into the vicious trap of junk food addiction.
If you live in the dorms, take a piece of fresh fruit when you go through the food line. If you don’t eat it right away, you will have it to eat for a snack when you get hungry later.
Choosing healthy snacks
If you can keep a hot air popcorn popper in your room, or if you have access to a microwave, popcorn can be a very healthy snack. If you don’t have a floor or dorm refrigerator, keep dry fruit, nuts, trail mix and that sort of thing in your room. Portion control is essential because although these are healthy snacks, they are also high in calories. If you do have access to a refrigerator, snack on string cheese, yoghurt, fruit, raw vegetables such as carrots and celery.
Limit the alcohol
One of the fastest way to sabotage your good intentions for healthy eating is to drink alcohol. Moderation is fine, but over indulgence will likely lead to significant weight gain. If others around you order alcohol, choose ice tea or some healthier option.
Limit soda consumption
A single can of regular soda contains at least 150 calories and 9 teaspoons of sugar. Two cans of soda will consume the equivalent of 1/5 of your total daily caloric need. That’s pretty astonishing. Look for healthier drink options and be mindful of the caloric content. Also be mindful of this when you are thinking about going out for lattes with your friends.
Keep track of your progress
Keeping track of your progress is a good way to determine whether you are eating your fruits and vegetables, whether you are attempting to consume the recommended number of servings of each of the food groups and whether you are on the wrong path.
Don’t beat yourself up
If you indulge a bit more than you would have liked, that’s okay. Everyone has moments of weakness. Move on and strive to be stronger in the future. If you beat yourself over the head for small failures, you will derail all of your good intentions.
Healthy eating habits are not something that one can acquire overnight, easily or in a short period of time. Most people strive to maintain healthy eating habits throughout their entire lives. There will be ups and downs. As a college student, you need to realize that much of what you are served is determined by others. What you choose to eat is up to you. You have to work within the parameters of what you’re given and learn to make healthy choices from that. When you do, you will be on the road to learning something most people spend a life time trying to learn .