Attending college, living in the dorms, and eating cafeteria food on a daily basis involves a significant change in your regular routine. This includes your eating habits and meal schedule. It is easy to grab food quickly in between classes or get into late night snacking habits without considering nutrition. Here are a few tips for making sure that you eat the best that you can in college, particularly with regular cafeteria meals. A balanced diet will greatly improve how you feel day to day, allowing you to focus more on your studies.
Drink lots of water throughout the day. Even if you don’t feel thirsty, it is important to keep drinking water to keep your body hydrated. Consider taking a water bottle to class or anywhere else you’ll be for extended periods of the day.
Eat at least one protein-rich food with each meal. It is easy to rely on foods with high carbohydrate counts that do not have rich proteins, such as pizza and crackers, which can make for mid-day fatigue. When you head to the cafeteria, consider foods with eggs, cheese, nuts, lean meats, and beans.
Eat a salad every day. Many cafeterias offer well stocked salad bars. Take advantage of this at least once a day. A salad is a great way to add some extra proteins with ingredients such as avocados, olives, beans, and dried fruits.
Eat plenty of whole grains. Don’t overdo the starchy foods. Look for alternatives with more nutrition. If the cafeteria does not regularly offer foods with whole grains, such as whole grain breads and cereals, stock them in your room.
Eat healthy fats throughout the day. The word “fat” has a negative connotation in just about any context. However, some fats are healthy for you, such as those found in assorted oils, avocado, seeds, butters, and olives.
Each a variety of foods each day. Even if you don’t hit every food group at every meal, if you continue to vary your diet from day to day, you will regularly hit all of the food groups.
Consider healthy “on the go” foods. This includes, but is not limited to, raw veggies, trail mix, granola bars, fruit, and sandwiches. If you can take foods out of the cafeteria, take something healthy with you on your way out. You can also stock healthy foods in your dorm room. If you have a fridge, consider stocking yogurt, hummus, low-fat milk, string cheese, and vegetables.
Make time for meals. If possible, don’t skip any. It is not always easy to schedule meals, especially at normal meal times. Do your best to get three full meals in each day. If this is not possible, reach for a healthy, filling snack such as yogurt with fruit instead.
Chose appropriate portions. It is easy to eat too much when you have an all you can eat food plan. Take reasonable amounts of food. You can always grab something else if you are still hungry. Make sensible choices at restaurants as well. Don’t be afraid to take leftovers home or to split a larger entree with a friend.
Get regular exercise. An overall health plan includes both a healthy diet and regular exercise. Many colleges offer extensive fitness options including weight rooms, pools, and walking tracks. Look for work out class offerings and intramural sports opportunities. If you are not interested in taking time go to the gym, walk on campus as much as possible. Take long routes to class and take the stairs instead of the elevator if you’re only going up a few flights of stairs.
Developing healthy eating habits can take time and discipline. Don’t get overwhelmed if it’s tough to follow some of these guidelines, especially when you first start college. Work into routines over time and then stick with them.