How to eat healthy in college

College student eating salad sitting on the ground and smiling.The dietary stereotype of a typical college student is pretty grim. Ramen and fast food. Keggers and pizza 2am. All-nighters powered by Red Bull and Cool Ranch Doritos®. Mostly tragic cafeteria food.

As with most stereotypes, this is not an exact specification. Oh, there’s a lot of pizza and energy drinks, but real university is not the medical land it was made to be. Many students eat regular meals at regular times more often than not. They make at least some effort to choose healthy fare. The dining rooms try to offer a variety of healthy options – by conventional standards, not Primal of course, but they do.

This means, it’s entirely possible to eat healthy in college. Yes, we may want to adjust our standards to what it looks like to be “healthy” in this context (those who stay up infrequently are better than those who stay up all night). And even then, it’s not always easy. Children who live on campus are limited in what they can prepare in cramped dorm rooms and food from on-campus catering services. Time is usually high. Grocery bills add up, and getting to the grocery store isn’t always easy. Many students are simply unprepared for the responsibility of shopping and preparing their own food.

The purpose of today’s post is to share some tips on how to eat healthy in a college cafeteria or on a budget. Use these ideas as inspiration, but know that you, dear student, don’t have to follow them into your teens to benefit your health. We’re not trying to turn you into social geeks who can’t enjoy regular late-night drives with friends or movie nights with piles of candy and popcorn.

You have your youth on your side, so you can get more excursions than people older than us. However, good nutrition is extremely important. Your body and brain are still developing, and the rigors of college mean you’re often sleep deprived and stressed. Nutritious, satisfying food is one of the ways you can support yourself and, to some extent, offset (or at least not add to) stressors you don’t. controllable.

How to make healthier food choices in college

1. Be aware of your surroundings.

Finding the best food options at the best prices means shopping around.

Explore dining room options. Even if you plan to dine mainly on campus, large universities often have many cafeterias and small supermarkets for students. You may discover that the on-campus dining room has much more upscale breakfast options, but you’d rather get closer to your dorm for dinner.

Check out grocery stores, fast food, and local markets. See which has the best price. Sign up for a club card and coupon app. If you’re not thrilled with the offerings, consider periodically ordering from places like Thrive Market or Amazon. Perhaps your roommate or other students on your floor will want to join the order.

Extended restaurants within walking or biking distance.

Find farmers markets on or near campus. This is one of the best ways to get fresh fruits and vegetables at a good price.

2. Warehouse your dorm room.

Create a mini kitchen in your dorm room with a few essentials to prepare quick meals and snacks. This may include:

  • Mini fridge with freezer
  • Small blender, like Magic Bullet or Ninja Personal Blender
  • Microwave oven
  • Single-cup coffee machine
  • Basic cooking utensils (cutting board, knife)
  • Plates, bowls, utensils

This simple, compact setup lets you make all kinds of meals with no cooking or no cooking — salads, smoothies, soups, protein oatmeal, and more. Many dormitories also have shared kitchen spaces. See what kind of appliances and utensils they offer and if you can use a fridge/freezer.

Get your groceries ready so you can turn into a quick breakfast on the go (smoothie bowlmicrowave oven egg bite) or for snacks between classes (trail mix, apple with peanut butter and a cheese bar). Here’s a basic shopping list to get you started:

  • Frozen berries
  • Frozen Spinach and Other Vegetables
  • Yogurt
  • Protein powder
  • Mixed salads
  • Wash lettuce
  • Canned tuna or other fish
  • Canned or pre-cooked chicken
  • Nuts and sugar mixes
  • Nut butter
  • Beef sticks, beef jerky
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables that can be eaten raw
  • Dipping (farm dip, hummus, guacamole)
  • Cheese sticks, sliced ​​cheese, fresh cheese
  • Soup, bone broth
  • Spice

3. Make the most of the dining hall.

I still think about the wonderful salad bar in my college cafeteria where a chef would assemble a killer big salad exact specifications of each student. The dining room also has a large selection of delicious hot food, fresh fruit, and of course, pizza, chips, sugary cereal dispensers, and giant Chik Fil-A.

There are always options. Anyway, choose the ones that serve you best… most of the time.

4. Build meals around protein and production.

When it’s time to eat, think protein and produce first. Try to eat enough protein and at least one vegetable or fruit at each meal. This rule of thumb will help you put together meals that have all the nutrients you need.

5. Make time for proper meals.

College life gets hectic, but try to minimize the number of meals you eat as you run from class to class. Don’t skip breakfast, just to end up hungry and grab something from the vending machine at 11am. Have dinner before I’m studying for tomorrow’s exam. Eating in a relaxed, fatigue-free state will improve digestion and maintain a regular meal time that helps your circadian rhythm.

Speaking of your circadian rhythm, eating too late – and certainly eating in the middle of the night – really messes with your internal clock. The occasional late-night meal is probably not a big deal, but it shouldn’t become a thing every weekend.

6. Time to eat fish.

It’s easy to buy burgers, luncheon chicken, and chicken, but you need fish for those essentials omega-3. It doesn’t have to be fresh fish. Canned fish — tuna, sardines, salmon, cod liver — is great and easy to keep in your dorm room.

7. Make a simple swap.

Don’t complicate it. Ask for a lettuce wrap instead of a bun. Get your fingers to roast chicken instead of frying. Get a side salad instead of grilled meat. Choose a burrito bowl instead of a plate of nachos. Not always, but look for obvious opportunities to make healthier choices and embrace them.

8. See the amount of alcohol. So is coffee.

This needs no explanation. Also consider the budgetary benefits.

9. Control what you can; Don’t worry about the rest.

Eating in the dining room means giving up some control over ingredients and choices. For example, you probably won’t be able to avoid nut oils. While not ideal, it’s not something to stress about. Use avocado oil, olive oil, and butter or buttermilk when cooking for yourself. Big props if you don’t mind carrying a bottle of avocado oil salad dressing into the dining room. But as long as you’re doing the best you can with what’s available, this is a “don’t let perfection be the enemy of good” situation.

The goal isn’t to be a perfect Primal eater, and we certainly don’t want food to be a source of anxiety and distress. However, what you eat plays a huge role in how you feel. Therefore, you should pay attention to how you are nourishing your body and make self-supporting choices more often than not. Instead of thinking about what you “can’t” or “shouldn’t” eat, look for foods that help you feel physically, mentally, and energetically healthy.

Sometimes, the choice in favor of yourself will be to enjoy the social experience of going out to an all-you-can-eat buffet with friends in your dorm at 11 p.m. If you do it a few times a week, week after week, you’ll feel like hot garbage after a while. Remember something Principle 80/20: trying to make healthier choices most of the time, realizing that college life is messy and fun and sometimes inherently unhealthy. Just like I would never suggest that college students right sleep 8.5 hours a night because it would be impractical for a multitude of reasons, I would never recommend you right Make it a priority to eat healthy at every meal. College life is not set up for that.

However, you also don’t have to embody the stereotype of an unhealthy college student. Look for people who, like you, want to find a good balance between enjoying their time in college and taking care of themselves so they can really make the most of every part of the experience.


Information about the Authors

Lindsay Taylor headshot

Lindsay Taylor, Ph.D., is a senior writer and community manager for Primal Nutrition, a certified Primal Health Coach, and co-author of three keto cookbooks.

As a writer for Mark’s Daily Apple and leader of the thriving Keto Reset and Primal Endurance communities, Lindsay’s job is to help people learn what, why, and how to lead a focused life. health. Prior to joining the Primal team, she earned her master’s and doctoral degrees. in Social and Personality Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley, where she also works as a researcher and instructor.

Lindsay lives in Northern California with her husband and two athletic sons. In her spare time, she enjoys running, triathlon, camping, and playing nights. Follow on Instagram @theusefuldish as Lindsay tries to juggle work, family, and endurance training, all while maintaining a healthy balance and, above all, having fun in life.

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