Center for Young Women's Health

College Eating and Fitness 101

 

Remember

  • Make time for meals.
  • Choose healthy portable snacks such as fruit, a granola bar, trail mix, or a sandwich when on the go.
  • Stay fit by walking to class, using your college gym, or trying an intramural sport.

Eating healthfully at college may seem intimidating, but it doesn't have to be difficult. Most dining halls at college provide plenty of nutritious options and campuses usually offer a lot of fitness options. This guide will help you learn easy ways to make nutritious choices and how to include fitness into your busy schedule.

 

Dining Hall Dilemmas

 

What if I can't find any food I like?

Be creative. If you don't like the hot food offered, try to combine foods from different areas of the dining hall. For example, add a grilled chicken breast to a salad or veggies from the salad bar to a sandwich or a wrap. Many colleges have multiple dining halls that may serve different foods and meals. Try all the dining halls to figure out which ones you like best.

 

What if I'm a vegetarian?

Most colleges offer vegetarian entrees at all meals such as veggie burgers, stir fries, and pasta dishes. Create your own vegetarian meal at the salad or sandwich bar by adding protein-rich ingredients such as eggs, hummus, beans, peanut butter, or cheese.

 

What if I have class during meals?

Food is the fuel your brain needs to help you think, so make time to eat. If you skip a meal, you may have trouble concentrating, get a headache, or feel like you didn't get very much out of your class. Even if you can't sit down for a full meal, pack a healthy portable snack such as fruit, trail mix, a granola or energy bar, or a sandwich.

 

How can I maintain good nutrition?

Try to eat a variety of foods and don't skip meals. To get the most out of your meals, eat a balance of vegetarian proteins or lean meats, high fiber carbs, and healthy fats such as oils, nuts, and fish. The table below provides suggestions of foods to choose at meal times.

 

 
Instead Of Try
Fried foods Grilled or baked foods
Refined grains (such as white bread and white rice) Whole grains (such as whole wheat bread and brown rice)
Whole milk Low-fat milk or soy milk
French fries Baked potato or sweet potato
Sweetened drinks Water or seltzer
Sweetened desserts (such as cookies, cake, or ice cream) Fruit

 

Nutrition 101: The Food Groups
Food Group
Benefits Nutrition Tip
Dairy & Dairy Substitutes Build strong bones. Have a serving of low-fat dairy such as milk, cheese, yogurt, or pudding 3 times a day.
Grains Provide energy for muscles & brain. Include grains such as rice, pasta, and bread at every meal. Choose whole grain options as often as possible.
Fats Keep you feeling full.
Include some fat such as olive oil, guacamole, nuts, or seeds at every meal.
Fruits & Vegetables Provide vitamins and minerals for healthy skin, hair, nails, and immune system. Try having at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables such as apples, broccoli, pears, carrots, squash, or salad per day.
Proteins Maintain muscle. Try having fish, beans, eggs, tofu, peanut butter, chicken, or lean beef at 2 meals per day.

 

Using campus services can also help you maintain good nutrition. If you have any food allergies, food intolerances, or food preferences, talk to your campus food services director. Meet with your college nutritionist if you're experience weight or appetite changes.

 

Dorm Room Remedies

 

I have a meal plan, but always get hungry between meals and at night when I'm studying. What should I do?

 

Keep your room stocked with healthy snacks you can grab when you're hungry, such as:

If you have a fridge, try:

My friends order late night pizza, calzones, and wings. What should I do?

Don't deny yourself food if you are craving it, but don't over indulge either. Healthy eating is about moderation. If you skip meals, you may be more likely to overeat. However, even if you eat regular meals throughout the day, you may still be a little hungry at night, so it's okay to eat a regular portion of these foods, such as 1 or 2 slices of pizza, every once in a while.

 

Top 5 Healthy Eating Tips

  1. Make Time for Meals
    Eating 3 meals per day plus snacks will give you energy that will last all day and keep your metabolism active. Keeping to a regular schedule will help you fit these meals in, especialy breakfast. For healthy portable snacks, packing fruit or a granola bar helps when you're on the go.
  2. Balance Your Meals
    Eating healthy meals that contain foods from at least 3 different food groups will help to ensure that you get all the nutrition you need to stay healthy. Be sure to eat different combinations of grains, fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, and healthy fats throughout the day.
  3. Don't Forget Dairy
    Your bones still need calcium to stay strong. Dairy foods and alternatives such as soy milk provide protein and vitamin D, as well as calcium.
  4. Stay Hydrated
    Proper hydration is important for healthy skin and organs. Drink water even if you're not thirsty. Waiting until you are thirsty to have fluids means you are already partially dehydrated. Pack a bottle of water in your backpack or gym bag.
  5. Choose Appropriate Portions
    Food portions in restaurants or takeout places are often more than one serving size and they're getting bigger and bigger. You may not realize how much food you're actually eating. When you're at a restaurant, plan on taking half of your meal home or spilt an entrée with a friend. When eating at a dining hall, take smaller portions to start. You can always go back for more if you're still hungry.

Top 5 Ways to Include Fitness in College Life

  1. Walk or bike to class
    Be active on the way to class instead of taking the bus or car.
  2. Join an intramural sport
    This is a fun way to meet new people and fit in exercise, too.
  3. Go for a walk with friends
    Stay fit and catch up with friends at the same time. Instead of taking a shortcut back to your dorm, take the scenic route and get in a little extra exercise.
  4. Take a fitness class as a course
    This is a good way to include fitness into your routine and earn credit. Consider weight lifting or dancing.
  5. Check out your college gym
    Most colleges have gyms or fitness centers that offer free or reduced price memberships. They may also offer classes such as yoga, cardio, kickboxing, and dancing.

Eating well and staying fit at college doesn’t have to be a challenge. Remember to balance nutritious foods, exercise regularly, and follow the tips in this guide to stay healthy at college.

 

Written and reviewed by the CYWH Staff at Boston Children's Hospital

 

Updated: 2/22/2012

 

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