i've been meaning to write this post for awhile now and finally got the chance to write it over break! i wanted to share some of the ways that i stayed healthy while navigating college dining halls.
**disclaimer: these tips are just what worked for ME. i am not a registered dietician and my views should not be taken as medical advice.**
a lot of articles i've read about staying healthy in college talk about making your own food. which i am all for, but there's just a *slight* problem with that: it's not possible for me! i don't have access to a kitchen of any sort and the microwave in my room, well, let's just say it's not the greatest. so i wanted to share some of the things i learned in trying to maintain a healthy diet while eating every meal on campus (i had the biggest meal plan - 19 meals a week - and ate all of my meals. what can i say? this girl likes food!)
tip 1. eat a good breakfast.
pass up the pastries, the biscuits and gravy, and the sugary coffee drinks and opt for something with protein, healthy fat, and whole grains.
- oatmeal with peanut butter (sometimes i even brought my own almond butter) and raisins with a side of fruit (or banana sliced on top)
- yogurt with nuts, dried fruit, and granola
- egg white omelets with veggies
- i made sure to dab off the oil on the omelets, because the ones at my school were pretty greasy.
- banana with peanut butter
- to-go cup of cereal with milk and fruit
tip 2. include veggies (or fruit) at every meal.
- have a banana or an apple at breakfast
- take advantage of the salad bar. load up on the fresh veggies and go easy on the dressing.
- have a bowl of (brothy, not creamy) soup at the beginning of your meal.
- steamed veggies (if available) are always a great choice.
- have a piece of fruit for dessert.
tip 3. beware of social eating.
i found that there were quite a few times when my friends and floormates would want to get dinner and i wasn't quite hungry. i didn't want to miss out on hanging out with them, but i also didn't want to waste a meal swipe only to not eat anything. in the beginning, i would eat a full meal just so i could eat with them, and then afterwards realize i didn't really enjoy my meal because i simply wasn't that hungry. i found that the best solution to this was to forget about wasting a swipe, go eat with my friends, and just have something small like a banana with peanut butter.
tip 4. always have healthy snacks on hand!
even though i didn't make much food in my room, i always made sure to keep healthy snacks in my fridge and drawers.
some of my favorites are :
- string cheese
- carrots and hummus
- dry roasted nuts
- greek yogurt (love me some CHO!)
- protein bars (my favorites are Luna & NuGo bars)
- tortillas with nut butter or microwaved with string cheese
- crackers with nut butter
- frozen fruit (frozen raspberries and frozen pineapple were my favorites)
- dried edamame <-- high in protein!
- beef jerky
- pretzels or popchips
- dark chocolate
- tea & hot cocoa
tip 5. don't eat dessert after every meal.
the pastry case and all you can eat soft serve machines on college campuses are really tempting. but if you eat dessert after lunch & dinner, you'll find yourself hitting sugar crashes in the afternoon and lacking energy. not to mention that eating lots of cake and brownies is an easy way to gain the freshman 15!
at the beginning of the year i fell into the trap of not wanting to 'waste' food and wanting to get the most bang for my buck at every meal, which meant eating dessert. once i figured out the effect that it was having on me, i started cutting back. my energy went up and when i did indulge, it tasted a lot better! by the end of the quarter i tried to have fruit for dessert during the week and then on the weekends i would go for the froyo or a brownie. but this leads to #6..
tip 6. don't eat something you don't like.
if it doesn't taste good, why eat it? i found that a lot of desserts just weren't as good as homemade desserts - and once i realized that, i stopped eating the ones that were only so-so! this tip also goes for main courses as well. if you taste something and don't like it, don't finish it. if there's nothing else available that you like, make a pb&j or have cereal and milk.
tip 7. get creative!
it's REALLY easy to get tired of the food on campus. (and this is coming from a girl who has 9 places to eat!) getting tired of food means reaching for the french fries or eating dessert for dinner - and while both of these things are totally fine, doing that every day is not going to be good for your health.
i found that walking around to each station and seeing what was available first really helped me. then i could decide whether i wanted to eat something that was being served or make something of my own. often i mix and matched from different stations to come up with something unique! one of my favorite go-to meals that is easy to mix up is a hot salad. i would pile on steamed veggies and tofu (or chicken) on a bed of spinach and top it with corn, rice, pesto sauce, and cheese. then i pop it in the microwave til the spinach is soft and i've got a filling and tasty meal!
tip 8. don't be too hard on yourself!
going to college is a very hard transition to make! don't get me wrong, i've loved every minute of it, but that doesn't mean that it's not difficult. being an emotional eater myself, the first few weeks were definitely rough, but eventually i found what worked for me and my body (including figuring out the cause of the headaches i was getting!). so just be patient and pay attention to your body - it will all work out in the end.
what would your best tip be for a college student navigating the dining halls?