College students across the U.S. are settling into the fall semester and that means over the course of the next few months they’ll be pulling all-nighters, partying, attending classes (hopefully) and, of course, eating and drinking whatever they want.
For most students, college is the first time where they have total control over what they eat and drink—and that can occasionally be problematic. Some students have never learned about nutrition, while others don’t have the budget (or a kitchen) to cook up their own healthy dishes.
“With tight budgets, lack of cooking skills, busy schedules and meal plans teeming with endless buffets of pizza and carbs, ‘healthy eating’ and ‘college students’ are two terms that don’t always go together,” said Marci Clow, a registered dietitian and Senior Nutritionist at Rainbow Light. “But realistically speaking there are indeed ways that students can make smart food choices and get through college without succumbing to clichés such as the ‘Freshman 15’.”
We turned to dietitians, nutritionists and university administrators for easy-to-follow advice on eating healthy through college. From navigating the dining hall to limiting late night snacking, these 12 tips will help any student stick to a healthier diet.
“Snacks can either be helpful or harmful to one’s health—and for busy college kids on the go, smart snacking is a must,” said Rene Ficek, a registered dietitian who is also the Lead Nutrition Expert at Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating (SSHE). “Snacks that include protein and fiber are ideal…to add a sense of fullness and keep energy levels up throughout the day. Keep in mind that when snacking, it is easy to go overboard on calories. Snacking in between meals should provide enough food to keep energy levels up, without breaking the calorie bank. Depending on one’s calorie needs, in between meal snacks should range from 100-300 calories.”
“Your mom was right, breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” said Ficek. “Breakfast suppresses midmorning hunger, yields fewer episodes of imbalanced, impulsive, or excessive eating later in the day, reduces overall fat intake and encourages improved health consciousness. Furthermore, starting your day without breakfast is like driving a car without gasoline. Brains need fuel to work. Research shows those who eat breakfast score better on tests and do better in school overall, so eat up.”