College is stressful and at times it can be easy to forget to take care of ourselves. Focusing on your personal wellness should be a priority in every college student in order to obtain our current and future goals. Here are 7 tips to make healthy living in college easier.
Attending lectures and meetings, writing time consuming papers, studying for hard classes, and maintaining a social life are just a few examples of how being a college student is not easy. Trying to stay healthy during school easily, but unfortunately, can find its way to the bottom of your priority list. This is why scheduling is the most important factor in being a healthy college student.
As students we are used to scheduling our classes, schoolwork, and appointments. Our schedules help us maintain structure to ensure we are completing our daily priorities. From my own experience as a graduating senior, I have learned that if I want to reach my goals, I have to schedule my time. So why not schedule your time to include your health and wellness? Planning out exercise does not have to be complicated or even time consuming. This could include incorporating time to attend a campus fitness class, running or playing sports outside, or just taking a walk with a friend. Studies have shown that as little as 20 minutes of exercise can better your mental and physical well-being. If just 20 minutes can help the overall quality of your life, there is really no excuse not to schedule exercise into your time.
2. Be cautious at coffee shops
One college staple I cannot live without is coffee. I have tried to give up coffee at least ten times, and guess what? It has never worked for me. Coffee is a delicious drink that boosts my mood and my energy. Without coffee, I would be sluggish and grumpy. If you are anything like me and must have your coffee, avoid overly sweetened coffee. Sugary coffee drinks can actually lead to a decline in your daily energy, and on top of that they have a ton of calories and unnatural additives. If you are trying to lose weight or just be overall healthier, avoid the flavored coffees as they are an easy way that excessive calories sneak in. Drinks advertised on campus, at Starbucks, or at Dunkin’ Donuts are examples of the drinks to avoid. When at these coffee shops, opt for a black coffee, lattes/cappuccinos with dairy-free milk, teas with honey, or matcha. This way you can fuel your caffeine addiction in the healthiest way possible while staying in control of your sugar intake.
3. Always Pack Healthy Snacks
If I have learned anything as a college student, it is that the campus snacks are not the healthiest and they are almost always overpriced. These snacks tend to be either loaded with sugar or contain enough preservatives to keep the item fresh until even after our kids graduate. But on those days when you have multiple lectures in a row, a snack is definitely necessary.
Packing snacks is important to keep your energy up throughout a long day. If you do your own grocery shopping, try to find snacks that have high levels of protein and fiber and low levels of sugar. Some ideas would be fiber crackers and a nut butter, vegetables and hummus, roasted chickpeas, or chia seed pudding. If you are not on a plant-based diet and feel you need a little more to keep your energy up, you could opt for lean roasted turkey slices and cheese, egg muffins, or yogurt. All of these are good options to keep our brains concentrating in class.
If you live in a dorm and are without a car, try to find a friend that can drive you to the grocery store. You can buy easy snacks that you can keep in your dorm room like rice cakes and avocado, instant oatmeal, and green juices. If you do not do your own shopping and still have a campus dining plan, there are still options. Dining facilities always have fresh fruit and it is easy to carry from class to class. Healthier dining snacks include crackers and hummus, a veggie bowl, yogurts (but try to avoid the flavored ones to avoid high sugar), and grape and cheese cups.
4. Fruit first
“Fruit first” is something I am new to and something, I feel that, a lot of people have never heard about. Since fruit is full of natural sugars, it is easiest for us to digest. It is best to eat fruit on an empty stomach before you have eaten any other food. If you are to eat anything else before fruit, say some scrambled eggs, your body must fully digest the eggs before you can digest the fruit. This can lead to stomach discomfort. If you eat fruit first, you will be able to obtain the energy fruit holds while optimizing digestion.
Eating fruit first is extremely easy in college. Grabbing an apple, orange, or banana is quick for those in dorms. These fruits are ideal for on-the-go since you do not need a refrigerator. Berries are extremely high in antioxidants and provide great energy as well. Even though you may need a refrigerator, berries are something I eat every morning for my digestion. Overall, eating fruit first will help with digestion and then provide us the energy we need to make it through those long lectures.
5. Planning your meal
I am a huge foodie and Columbus restaurants are fantastic, so going out to eat is definitely one of my favorite things to do in my free time. Having dinner with your friends can give you something to look forward to, but it can also take a toll on your health. However, if done properly, eating out can actually end up being just as nutritious as eating in.
The key to obtaining your health goals when eating out is looking at the menu ahead of time. Picking out what you want to order and sticking to that meal will help you avoid a less nutritious dinner. When looking at a menu, always try to get in some greens. If you order pasta, ask for a side of steamed broccoli or kale. You could also ask them to box up half of the pasta and serve you the other half if you think the proportions are too big for you. That way you have lunch for the next day, too. Hello saved money! If you aren’t plant based, you could order grilled chicken or a fish. No matter what you decide to order, I would ask for a side of greens. This extra fiber will not only fill you up, but it will make you feel good.
6. Choose dining hall foods strategically
When we do go to the dining hall, it is easy for us to become overwhelmed with all the options. Attempting to figure out what is on the healthier side and what is not can be difficult when you do not know where to start. I always feel that the easiest place to start finding healthy foods is the salad bar. Start with a grain, like quinoa, farro, or rice, then add a leafy green, and then add other veggies. Bringing your own dressing, or simply topping with lemon and olive oil, is always an option. If you chose the dining hall dressing, try to look for something that does not contain dairy as it can disrupt your digestion.
Outside of the salad bar, you could look for steamed veggies, baked sweet potatoes, and gluten free pastas. If you choose to eat meat, try to look for grilled chicken breast or a lean turkey. By choosing foods strategically you can end up with a delicious meal, even in a dining hall. Trying to eat healthy at a dining hall may seem impossible, but it is way more simple with some practice.
7. Carry water at all times
If you are trying to achieve any sort of wellness goals, water will be your new BFF. Water is good for your health for a number of reasons. Starting your day with warm lemon water can aid with digestion, jumpstarts metabolism, and flushes toxins. It is the best thing you can do for yourself in the morning. Hydration throughout the day can help with muscle fatigue and drowsiness. In addition to all these magical benefits, drinking water can curb cravings. If you ever get hungry right after you finish eating, you most likely need to be drinking more water. Carrying a bottle of water around will help you drink more water throughout the day and lead to better health. Be kind to your body and drink water; you will not regret it.
Abby is a senior at The Ohio State University majoring in Environmental Policy and Decision Making. She specializes in Communication and Decision Making. She has interned at National Geographic Studios for film development in New York City. Abby has also worked at Original Productions in Los Angeles as a production intern. She has a wide variety of interests that extend from the environment, health, PR, and production. Abby Is not sure where life is taking her after college, but she is eager to find out.