It can be tough to stay healthy when you’re in the midst of college life - independent for the first time and focusing on studies, a social life, dating and planning for the future. That’s a lot to take on while also worrying about health. Luckily, there are simple steps you can take to build the foundation for a healthy life even when eating dorm food and stocking snacks in your mini fridge. Here are some nutrition tips I wish someone had given me when I was in college!
- Find balance - a balanced plate, that is. Even if you’re eating dorm food, you can find ways to add balance to your meals. Generally, we’re looking for about a quarter protein, a quarter carbohydrate and half veggies on a balanced plate. Find ways to tweak dishes you’re given in the dorm. For example, if you have mac n’ cheese, add some veggies and some protein from the salad bar.
- Stock up on healthy snacks - Yes, it’s fun to have chips and cookies in your dorm room, but there’s room from some healthy but still tasty snacks in your day to day, too. Try fruit, nuts, whole grain crackers and cheese, hummus and low sugar protein bars.
- Watch added sugar - Speaking of sugar, it’s really easy to go crazy with added sugar when you’re eating dorm food. Things like yogurt, drinks, baked goods, even granola bars and cereal can have tons of added sugar. This is the one food I recommend keeping track of, since it can be really hard on your body to process a ton of added sugar. Try to stick to around 25-35 grams per day (note, this does NOT count fruit). No biggie if you slip up, but it’s a long-term habit that will help you avoid chronic disease in the future.
- Get a variety of proteins - Having protein in all your meals is another great way to avoid spiking blood sugar and help you stay full, satisfied and healthy. Switching it up with some plant protein is even better, since eating more than two servings of red meat per day can be pro-inflammatory. Beans, tofu, tempeh, seitan and meat substitutes can be a great way to get lean protein. Fish is also a great source of protein and omega 3’s which can help fight inflammation.
- Include healthy fats - Another type of food that is often neglected in the hustle and bustle of college life is healthy fats. These come from avocados, nuts, seeds, olives and other plant sources of fat. They can help keep your hair, skin and nails healthy as well as help lower inflammation and keep you full and satiated. Try throwing some avocado on a salad, adding nuts to your snack routine, including nut butter in smoothies or snacking on olives.