Moving into the dorm makes the college experience official. It also means being in charge of many more of your meals than you may be used to. Many college freshmen fear gaining the freshman 15, but it isn't something that has to happen.
Whether you're a student or a parent of a college newbie, follow these seven strategies to eat better and feel better for a more successful academic year:
1. Stock up on produce.
Fresh fruits and vegetables can last weeks and many don't need to be refrigerated. Make sure to pick some up when you make your weekly grocery run. When you're eating in the cafeteria, make sure to always have a fresh of fruit piece with each meal and make sure half your plate is made up of vegetables -- just not fried ones. If you do find your produce spoiling too soon, try dried fruit
or frozen vegetables, second in health only to fresh.
2. Choose packaged foods wisely.
Do your research and learn what the information on nutrition labels means. Know how to identify sugar (it has many different names), artificial ingredients and fats. When shopping for processed foods, aim for organic and non-GMO whenever possible.
3. Learn how to cook in your microwave.
You can use your microwave for more than zapping old pizza. Plain popcorn is a snack low in calories and high in fiber
and you can also cook eggs in the microwave. Be sure to have containers and dishes that are safe for microwaving.
4. Bring along a blender.
If your dorm allows it, a blender is another useful kitchen appliances to help you stay on track. Start your day with a smoothie loaded with fruits, veggies and a scoop of protein
or meal replacements powder
and you have a wholesome breakfast to keep you full. You can also use a blender to puree vegetables, then transfer it to a bowl and microwave it for quick soup.
5. Snack on dry goods.
Instead of going for the vending machine for chips, fill your cupboard with nuts
, dried fruits
and protein bars
that can give you an energy boost when you need it without all the sugar, fat and extra calories. You should also keep chia seeds on hand -- combine with milk or yogurt, fruit and vanilla extract and keep in the fridge for homemade pudding!
6. Eat on a schedule.
The key to keeping your blood sugar stable and your energy up is not go too long between meals. Aim for three meals and two snacks
a day spaced evenly apart whenever possible. Use your class and work schedules to plan your meals and find friends to join you. A schedule will also help you sleep better at night.
7. Pick energy-boosting foods.
Foods rich in fiber and protein will keep you awake and focused during long lectures and exams and keep your stress in check. Looking for whole grains and lean protein when choosing foods in the dorm cafeteria and be sure to look for these nutritional components when shopping.
BONUS: Treat yourself.
There's no rule against enjoying the foods you love, just keep it in moderation. Choose one day a week to treat yourself to some takeout from a favorite restaurant and you'll find you won't crave less healthy foods as much since you aren't forbidding yourself from having them.
Keep these tips in mind and let the freshman 15 be just a myth. Stay well!