Keys to Staying Healthful Throughout College and Beyond

by Lauren Lustgarten

The Freshmen 15 is something none of us wanted to experience as we enter our first year of college. But it’s also something that we aren’t exactly sure how to avoid either. From eating home cooked meals and being forced to eat our veggies growing up, to having to eat at the dining hall three or more times a day, our diets can go south really quick – continuing to be healthful can prove to be a challenge throughout college.

As the years move on and maybe you moved to an off-campus house where you now have to buy your own food, you realize just how expensive fruits, vegetables and anything “green” can be. As a broke college student, you then have to decide what’s more important: a healthy diet or money. Tough choice. But, with just a few simple changes and a different mindset, a healthy lifestyle can be easy to start and maintain – even for a broke and busy college student.

Planned diets like Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig tend to get expensive and very tedious. As a student with a hectic schedule, the last thing you have time for is tracking all the meals you ate that day and tallying up your “points” to see what else you can eat. Some of the best weight loss results in college students come from just a healthy lifestyle type of diet. Here are the recommendations given by a dietitian and tested by college students:

First and foremost, you should meet with an on-campus dietitian (i.e. a nurse or any health professional) and they can educate you and guide you toward a healthy diet and weight. You can work with that dietitian to find a meal plan that works for you, considering your daily schedule and dining options.

It is also important that you eat regular and consistent, healthful meals during the day. That includes taking small snacks with you to long classes or study sessions so you stay energized and awake. We always need small snacks throughout the day. For the occasions when you don’t have enough time to make it to the dining hall before class, you should stock your dorm room/bedroom with healthy foods or quick meals. 

Staying hydrated is key to all. Carry a refillable water bottle throughout the day, set a goal for yourself on how much water you want to consume and reach it!

If you’re truly committed to keeping this diet going, limiting alcohol consumption is a must. Especially in college students, alcohol is a common source of extra calories. Alcohol also leads to late night snacking, which adds a significant amount of calories to your day and can cause weight gain or slow weight loss. 

Being physically active at college is essential. Take advantage of the free on-campus gyms that the school provides for you. Aiming for 150 minutes of cardio each week and two days of strength training will really aid in seeing results.

Managing your weight in college can be very hard to do, between classes, sports, trying to find time to exercise and working if you have a job. But all in all, making sure that you get eight to ten hours of sleep every night is key to maintaining a healthy weight and also helps with your memory, study habits, grades and managing stress. There are an infinite number of reasons for why high stress levels are common in college students. Managing and addressing your stress is very important. Stress is not good on your body and it can also lead to increased snacking and the increased consumption of junk food.

There are many ways that college students can unintentionally forget about their diet and lose focus of the bigger picture. On the flip side, there are also many ways that you don’t need to worry about keeping track of a diet if you fill your mind with the right nutritional information and if you fill your stomach with good, less fatty foods. Taking the steps mentioned above will give you the best possible results for a better, healthier lifestyle for a very little amount of money.