Filled with new learning experiences and relationships, college can be stressful and unpredictable. Unless you’re careful, unlimited cafeteria food and drinking at parties can lead to the infamous “Freshman 15,” where first-year students pack on 15 pounds from their new lifestyle habits. We’ve compiled some smart eating and exercise tips to ensure every year is a healthy and fun experience.
How to Develop Smart Eating Habits
1. Breakfast is for champions. It may seem like a no-brainer, but eating breakfast can help you improve your concentration and stay engaged during classes. In fact, studies show that students do better in school when they eat nutritious breakfasts such as oatmeal, eggs and yogurt (as opposed to sugary cereals, donuts, pastries and bagels). Jessica Levinson, a New York-based registered dietitian and creator of Nutritioulicious, said “Breakfast should have a combination of whole grains, protein and/or healthy fat, and some fruit or vegetables. Quick options are a bowl of oatmeal with a sprinkling of nuts (almonds, walnuts), and fruit; a whole-grain waffle with peanut butter or low-fat plain yogurt and fruit; egg omelet with veggies and whole-wheat toast.”
2. You can have your cheeseburger and eat it too. While you may think that foods like cheeseburgers, pizzas and macaroni and cheese are off-limits when it comes to healthy eating, you can make substitutions and still enjoy the foods you love. For instance, cook a turkey or veggie burger using a non-stick pan in your kitchen. Pair it with a whole-wheat bun, instead of the potato bread that is usually served on.
3. Substitute vegetables for french fries. Veggies often get a bad rap for being bland and unsavory. But with the right ingredients and seasonings, vegetables make excellent side dishes, plus they’re packed with vitamins and antioxidants that your body needs. You can easily prepare a delicious stir-fry in any dorm kitchen. The best part: veggies cook up in just a few minutes.
4. Snacking helps curb hunger. Healthy snack options like whole-grain granola bars and crackers, baby carrots, fruits and string cheese help keep you energized and curb hunger so you won’t feel famished by your next meal. These snacks pack well so you can carry them with you as you go between classes. Levinson added, “Eat every three to four hours to maintain concentration in classes. All food breaks down into glucose, the brain’s primary fuel source. All meals should have a combination of protein and carbs to keep blood sugar levels steady.”
5. Keep portion sizes in mind. You don’t have to count calories, but try eating a balanced meal that includes some lean protein, veggies, and healthy carbs. When you eat a good balance of these foods, you won’t be tempted to overindulge in one than the other. “When eating dinner in the cafeteria, fill half your plate with vegetables and split the other between lean protein (chicken breast, tofu, fish) and a whole-grain carb. Watch out for sauces, which add a lot of fat and sodium. If you see a tempting dessert, wrap it in a napkin and save it for an after-dinner, study-break snack,” said Levinson. If you’re planning to stay up late and study, make sure to have a healthy stash of snacks on hand.
6. Enjoy a cookie—or two. Life’s too short, and you’re too young. Whether you’re celebrating a birthday or attending a party, indulge during special occasions. If you want to be extra good during dessert, you can melt some dark chocolate in the microwave and use it for fruit fondue.
How to Fit in a Workout
1. Create a schedule that includes time at the gym. When the time comes for registering for classes and mapping out your schedule, make sure to fit in workout time.
2. Buy workout DVDs and exercise in your dorm room. If the weather’s preventing you from walking to the gym or running outside, pop a workout DVD in your laptop and exercise in your dorm room. Purchase a pair of free weights and a yoga mat to do small strength-training exercises. There are plenty of workout DVDs available, including yoga, Pilates, cardio and dancing.
3. Stay active throughout the day. If half your day is spent sitting down in class, try to get in as much movement and activity where you can. For instance, you can take the stairs instead of the elevator and walk the long way to your classes.
4. Exercise with a friend. Nothing makes working out easier and more fun than with a friend. Find a workout buddy who’s reliable and committed so you can help each other stay on track.