Food & Nutrition

Eating in College

Heading off to college?

This is an exciting time in your life and hopefully a time of opportunities, of learning and of new experiences. It is also a transition time into adulthood and responsibility for making choices, decisions and taking care of your health and well-being on your own.

By now you might have heard of the “freshman 15,” the weight gain that many college students experience during their first year. There are many factors that contribute to weight gain that you can control. Being smart about food choices and being physically active are two habits that you should adopt.

GOOD NUTRITION is all about eating a variety of foods in appropriate amounts. This includes eating healthy foods often and not so healthy foods occasionally.

WHAT SHOULD YOU EAT? Vegetarian protein such as beans and tofu and/or lean meats, high fiber carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables and healthy fats such as oils, nuts, nut butters, fish and avocado.

BE CREATIVE: If you don’t like the hot food in the cafeteria, combine other options. For example, have a baked potato and top it with vegetables, add a salad that includes beans, eat tuna or chicken salad minus the bread, get a veggie burger and skip the French fries, have a soup and a salad. Of course when it comes to soup, try to avoid any “cream of…” type—they contain lots of calories!

PRACTICE PORTION CONTROL: Use the plate method. Fill half of your plate with vegetables and salad, ¼ of the plate with healthy, high fiber carbs and ¼ with lean protein such as grilled chicken, meat, fish or eggs, tofu or beans. Add a fruit and a dairy choice (milk, low fat yogurt) and you should be satisfied. If you are still hungry, then go back for more of the healthy food. Try to exit the dining hall when you are finished eating. If you stay too long to socialize, you might end up eating more than you wanted to.

AVOID EATING LATE AT NIGHT: This is the time when most students get in trouble. If you ate an early dinner and you are in your room studying late, most likely you’ll get hungry because your stomach digests food in 4-5 hours. The food usually available this late is pizza or fast food that contain lots of calories and sodium (salt). If you choose pizza, then try to limit yourself to 1-2 slices at most and only occasionally. The best strategy is to have healthy snack choices in your dorm room. Here are some suggestions to keep on hand:

  • fresh fruit
  • dill pickles
  • canned fruit in its own juice
  • low fat pudding
  • low fat yogurt
  • high fiber granola bars
  • light popcorn
  • flavored rice cakes
  • baked chips
  • pop chips
  • thin pretzels
  • baby carrots with hummus
  • dill pickles
  • nuts
  • soy nuts
  • trail mix made with high fiber cereal dried fruit and nuts
  • whole grain crackers and string cheese
  • animal crackers
  • graham crackers
  • high fiber cereal and low fat milk
  • hardboiled eggs
  • cereal and peanut butter
DON’T SKIP MEALS: you will only eat more later. If you have class during a meal, then take a snack to eat after class to avoid filling up on vending machine junk. Breakfast is very important. Protein bars and protein shakes are easy to store in your dorm room and can be used as meal replacements.

AVOID DRINKING ALCOHOL although you are not of legal age to drink, it is very likely you will find yourself in situations where other students are drinking. Remember that alcohol impairs your judgment and can make it difficult to make good decisions. It also causes hypoglycemia and can make you gain weight because it has lots of calories. So abstinence is your best choice!

EXERCISE!: At least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity most days of the week. Walk or bike to class, join a sport, walk with friends, check out the gym and make working out part of your schedule or take a fitness class for credit. Being active will help counteract weight gain, will let you indulge occasionally on unhealthy foods, helps you relieve stress and lowers your blood sugar!