By: Zahin Tasnin
For many first-year college students, moving out brings a significant shift in eating habits. It is challenging to have a healthy homemade meal when trying to adjust to a new environment. For instance, eating takeout often, buying cheap and low-quality food, or binging on snacks during late-night study sessions can result in weight gain.
Even though having a balanced diet is vital for everyone, it is especially necessary for students who face long hours of studying, hectic schedules, and limited finances. Maintaining a healthy diet is critical for academic performance, personal development, and general well-being. It is tempting to overlook eating habits in the fast-paced atmosphere, but it can lead to health issues such as depression, weight gain, and a weaker immune system. Poor eating habits can also impact sleep schedules, reduce energy and focus, lower grades, and more. As a result, as a college student, making quality food choices and developing healthy eating habits is necessary. Below is a list of things you can do to improve your diet as a college student:
Tracking what you eat: Tracking food intake is the first step to making conscious and smart food choices. Binging on cookies and sodas during late-night study sessions can become a habit. If you don't keep a record of what you are eating mindlessly, it can have a fatal impact on you, such as unexpected weight gain. You can easily track your weekly food intake with a physical journal or apps like MyFitnessPal or Fitbit. After recording your eating habits, try to identify any unhealthy patterns that emerge. If you find a week of heavy desserts, sugary drinks, or fast foods, think of better alternatives to explore moving forward. This practice will make changing your diet easier than ever.
Limit liquid calorie intake: Staying hydrated is necessary, but don't fall victim to liquid calories such as soda, alcohol, and sweetened iced teas. Instead, look for healthier drink choices around your campus or make your own. If you want to add some flavor to tap water, add lemon, berries, or cucumber slices. If you are a coffee lover, avoid syrups and creams and replace whole milk with low-fat, fat-free, or non-dairy milk. If you are up for the challenge, you can try black coffee, which has fewer calories than the other variations. If you are a tea person, explore the unsweetened alternatives at your tea shop. You can also limit your liquid calories by making conscious choices when buying canned or bottled drinks. Be careful of added sugars, which can go by many names, such as corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, molasses, raw sugar, glucose, malt syrup, etc.
Eat more fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables should make up at least half of your plate at every meal, according to ChooseMyPlate.gov. Fruits and vegetables have fewer calories than other food groups, and many of them also contain cancer-fighting antioxidants. Eating the necessary amount of fruits and vegetables can provide vital nutrients such as potassium, vitamin C, fiber, and more. Potassium-rich fruits such as bananas, honeydew, cantaloupe, jackfruit, and guava can help maintain healthy blood pressure. Try to have more whole fruits than fruit juices since fruit juices contain little to no fiber. Fiber-rich foods, including mangoes, raspberries, and persimmons, reduce blood cholesterol and may lower the risk of heart disease. A daily intake of vitamin C can help grow and repair body issues. Some vitamin- C-rich fruits include oranges, strawberries, kiwis, and grapefruit.
Overall, eating healthy is an integral life skill. If you start eating healthy during college, it will be easier to make healthy food choices even after you graduate. Eating well can improve your sleep schedule and weight management. Besides your physical health, nutritious food also enhances your mental health. Start making better food choices now and see the results for yourself.