Eating Healthy at College: Expert Tips to Help You Navigate Campus Food and Beyond

Experts share practical tips for building and sustaining healthy eating habits at college


Hardly any college student would disagree: maintaining healthy eating habits on campus is no easy feat.

With so many easily-accessed, not-so-nutritious distractions, choosing the foods that will best serve your nutritional needs can be quite a challenge. Whether it’s unlimited free pizza at a weekly club meeting, post-party late-night snacking, endless options at the dining hall buffet or two-for-one drinks at the local bar, most college students are constantly bombarded with a seemingly endless assortment of less than healthy food choices.

Not that you can’t or shouldn’t treat yourself to these things every once in a while, just that to maintain good overall health and avoid weight gain, it’s best not to make them a regular part of your routine.

In other words, you’ll want to find balance between consistently practicing healthy eating habits (as well as a regular exercise routine) and taking delight in the less nutritious options you’re extremely likely to find both on and off campus.

The following 12 tips, all suggested by nutrition experts, are designed to help you do exactly that: find stability and equilibrium in your diet within a setting where curve balls are constantly headed your way.

Be Mindful at the Buffet


“All you can eat access doesn't mean you have to pig out,” explains Ryan Munsey, owner of House of Strength gym, host of the Optimal Performance Podcast, and a freelance fitness and nutrition writer. “For many freshmen, the first semester is the first time they've been on their own. Exploring this freedom usually leads to doing things in excess —unlimited buffets, parties, 'Taco Tuesdays' and more. Learning to find balance is part of the college experience.” His advice? Have fun but don't overdo it. Of course, that’s much easier said than done, but first, start with being mindful within buffet-style settings. Fill half your plate with veggies, grab a lean source of protein, fill your cup with water and limit yourself to just one plate and one trip to the buffet. Then employ the following tips, which can help you learn exactly how to find the balance you'll need to sustain your healthy eating habits while still enjoying the college experience.

Beware the Late-Night Munchies


“Let's be honest, college students eat more late-night meals than almost any other demographic,” says Munsey. “And most of those food choices are heavy, greasy and far from healthy.” He suggests limiting these occasions to once a week or less. “[It] will serve your GPA, your waistline and your wallet,” he added. If you do find you need a bite to eat during the later nighttime hours, opt for more nutritious foods like high-protein and high-fiber snacks such as nuts, Greek yogurt or fresh fruit. 

Click here to see more tips for eating healthy at college.

More Reading: 
15 Surprising Ways to Beat the Freshman 15
Bodyweight Exercises You Can Do in Your Dorm Room
Healthy Snacks Every College Student Should Have in their Dorm