As a student, it is very easy to eat unhealthily and give in to the temptation of junk food due to the convenience. As a university student who has lived both in residence and off-campus, I understand the difficulties of trying to eat healthily and feel your best while dealing with the pressures of university. There are many reasons why it is important to eat healthily, but it can be difficult as a student. I have learned from experience and through research on the topic that with a few helpful strategies, eating healthily as a student is possible, on and off-campus.
Here are four tips and tricks to eat healthily, stay healthy, and avoid temptation as a student.
- Check the Chartwells menu
Knowing what is in the food you are eating is a great step to making healthier choices. It makes it easier to say no to the mac and cheese dish when you know how much sodium or fat it contains. Mount Saint Vincent University’s cafeteria is catered by Chartwells, who provide online menus where you can find nutrition facts for the foods the cafeteria is serving. It is important to know what you are putting in your body every day if you want to feel your best.
- Control portions
Walking through the cafeteria, looking at the abundant variety of food I can choose from makes it extremely difficult to not try one of everything. Although it can be exciting to have every meal be like an “all-you-can-eat” buffet, it won’t help your health or waistline.
Resist the temptation of having it all at the same meal and spread the surprise over the week. Most cafeterias rotate their menu so if you miss it this week, you can look forward trying something new next week. Portion size is important. There is no need to turn your plate into an abstract art project and pile up the food. Taking smaller portions of many different food groups will ensure a balanced diet. For example, a single serving of meat or fish should be the about size of a cell phone. Eating a variety of food groups not only helps satisfy your nutritional needs but eating a full plate will usually deter most from going for seconds.
- Snack smart
As I stand in the cafeteria, my eyes go back and forth between the rows of cookies and the bowls of fruit, trying to decide what I want to bring out for a late-night snack. Although cookies are delicious, finding the willpower to grab a piece of fruit as you head out to your next class will provide you with a much longer energy boost and without the inevitable processed sugar crash.
Stocking up on healthy snack staples you can keep in your room such as fruit from the cafeteria or raw veggies will help you stay away from ordering in pizza late at night. If you don’t have a refrigerator in your room, choose snack foods that have a longer shelf life such as natural peanut butter, trail mix or unbuttered popcorn. Late-night study sessions are opportunities for eating junk food, so bring your own snacks to avoid the temptation.
Quick Tip: If you buy small brown paper bags and plain popcorn kernels, you can use your microwave to pop your own unbuttered popcorn!
- Make time for meals
When studying for long hours in the library, I am guilty of skipping meals or simply throwing a bag of chips or a candy bar into my bag on my way out the door. Making time for meals and giving up the convenience of junk food is the hardest habit to break. However, I have found that even with a busy schedule, it is possible to make time to eat healthily.
Establish a routine by planning your meals out. Pack a lunch for your day at school, pick up a salad at the Seton Café or look at the daily cafeteria menus so you know what healthy options are being offered. Make sure you are prepared, including packing enough food to eat for the day, bringing money to purchase lunch at Seton Café, which has a large selection of healthy options, as well as making time to eat. Try to include breakfast, lunch, an afternoon snack, dinner and a late-night snack to keep you going through the day. Eating more frequently will increase your brainpower and crush the temptation to eat junk food and order the ever-dreaded late night pizza!
Why is it important to eat well?
Not only will these tips help first-years avoid gaining weight (the “Freshman 15”) but maintaining healthy eating habits throughout your years at university will help you sleep better and give you more energy for studying and socializing. You may also avoid colds that easily spread through campus residences, and carry over healthy eating habits into post-university adulthood. Maintaining healthy eating habits in residence and off-campus will help you feel better about yourself and make you feel your best!