For college and university students, healthy meals can be few and far between. Finding the time and space to cook can be challenging, not to mention costly. Thus, many students eat dining hall meals, dine out, or purchase cheap yet nutritionally poor foods. Unfortunately, an unhealthy diet can contribute to stress, weight gain, fatigue, anxiety and other physical and mental health issues. Fortunately, there are a few simple strategies you can use to eat well, even when you’re a student. Explore some of the most practical options below.
Eat Three Meals Per Day
Eating three square meals a day is essential for weight maintenance and proper nourishment. It positively impacts overall health and helps ensure your body’s receiving all the vitamins and minerals it needs. Of course, these three meals should be healthy. If nothing else, ensure each meal contains at least one fruit and vegetable. This will help you to satisfy your recommended servings of fruits and vegetables each day, and give you plenty of energy to get through classes. You may also be less likely to overeat or indulge in poor choices between meals with this approach. If you do snack, choose wholesome options like peanut butter and apple slices, carrots and hummus, or celery sticks and nuts – and find even more ideas below.
Make Healthy Choices in the Dining Hall
The meals in campus dining halls aren’t always loaded with calories, carbs, and unhealthy fats. In fact, there are often at least a few healthier options to consider. When you select healthier, lighter fare, you might even wind up saving money to help maintain your food budget, too. Here are some healthy strategies for choosing meals at the dining hall:
- Avoid overeating or having multiple servings of full meals; give yourself 10 minutes after you’ve finished your portion for your body to send cues to your brain that you’re full.
- Go straight to the salad bar and load your plate with fruits and vegetables, as well as low-fat, low- sugar salad dressings.
- Drink water instead of energy drinks, soda, or other sugary beverages.
- Pass on extras like cheese, bread, and unhealthy toppings.
- Skip dessert most of the time or leave it for special days or occasions.
- Choose grilled meats over fried.
- Eat nutritionally-dense foods like oatmeal, eggs, green leafy vegetables, and beans.
Unhealthy snacking can do just as much damage as poor meal choices. In fact, snacking on junk can negate the effects of healthy meals. While nutritionally void snack foods can be tempting, try to steer clear of choices like chips, candy, cookies, baked goods, and sugary drinks. Instead, stock healthier options, such as granola, plain popcorn, cheese, peanut butter, nuts, and dried fruits. Grab fruits and snackable veggies (carrots and celery) from the dining hall, too. Additionally, avoid late-night snacking, since this is the time when less-healthy choices are often made. You can do this by following an appropriate sleep schedule, going to bed at the same time every night, and avoiding late or all-night study sessions.
Plan Ahead for Shopping
If you live in Brock University or Niagara College off-campus housing, grocery shopping should be on your to-do list. In fact, it’s one of the many freedoms of living in your own off-campus apartment. Of course, such freedom could prompt you to take some liberties with your food choices – shopping without a plan is conducive to purchasing junk food. While some unhealthy choices are okay, they shouldn’t fill up your cart. Here are some ways to spend your grocery money wisely:
- Buy generic-brand foods.
- Shop sales and plan your meals around on-sale items.
- Use coupons whenever possible.
- Check nutrition labels of prepackaged foods and limit them as much as possible.
- Looking for healthy items at the dollar store, such as canned vegetables.
- Buy frozen fruits and veggies, as they can keep well for months.