The “Freshman 15” pounds that many new college students pack on in their first year due to the change in location, schedule and even personal freedom is a problem that needs to be thought about right when a student beings their college career. Now, as the nation seems to be getting heavier, that extra weight can mean a world of difference in health issues both immediate and long after college. Eating healthy keeps you more fit and alert for your studies now and establishes a history of good nutritional habits that you’ll need as you move into the working world. For most college students, there are two major food sources/problem areas to have to deal with while attending school: The Campus Dining Hall and The Dorm Room.
Yes, The Dining Hall
One of the greatest money saving offers (other than scholarships) a college has to offer is the campus dining hall. However, it is also the primary source of calories and nutrition for students who don’t always make the best choices. If they look at it like another classroom or study lab, the choices are easier to make.
Every dining hall now is required to publish nutritional information just like a fast food restaurant. For students who couldn’t care about calories themselves, the opportunity is there for them to build their meals around the published menus either individually or to find other students with similar tastes; just like putting together study groups of students with similar academic goals.
It’s Not A Drive-Thru, It’s Better!
Until recently, most campuses did not encourage students removing food from the dining halls. Now, to encourage better eating habits, many do. It can be something as simple as a stand near the exit providing fruit and vegetables or a smaller area that operates outside normal dining hours. These “To Go” areas provide healthy options so students do not have to go off campus and load up on burgers, tacos or pizza when all they may need is just a quick snack. Again, it’s all about setting up good habits that can carry on after graduation. To put it simply, as Teen Vogue recently did, “Always Take the Fruit!”.
Late Night Snacks For The Late Night Cram
When you’re up at 1am trying to study for a test, the Dining Hall is closed and the first snack you see will be what you usually grab and wolf down. Apples, as well as oranges and mostother citrus fruits stay fresh for up to two weeks without having to put them in that little refrigerator that barely holds anything anyway. Put them in a colorful bowl and you’ve not only got a pyramid of healthy snacks, but a good way to decorate those four, bland, off-white walls as well.
Dried fruit and sunflower seeds can last an entire semester without going bad (just watch out for ants). Rice cakes and crackers (multi-grain please) will keep for over a month as long as you keep the bag sealed when not snacking. Low-Fat peanut butter or a hazelnut spread give you a lot of flavor without adding on a lot of calories. Nuts are a good snack as well, but many of them are high in calories and usually expensive compared to the amount of food you get for your dollar. If you just have to have some, buy them in the shell; they’ll not only be cheaper, but there also won’t be added salt, sugar or anything else.
Between Class Snacks? No Problem
There is also the traveling version of the Dorm Room; the backpack. Candy bars melt and chip bags get punctured or crushed. Fresh fruit is usually much tougher and a baggie of seeds or dried fruit can take a pounding from books and still provide a good snack.
Remember that no one can eat healthy all the time. The idea is to set up good habits before the crunch time of mid-terms or finals and stick to them as much as possible. As a final note to parents, you may be tempted to buy a semester’s worth of snacks and slide them under your child’s bed so they won’t have to go the trouble of buying more later. Don’t Do It! At best, your student is going to snack whenever they’re nervous and just because they can (there’s that pesky Freshman 15 again). At worst, the entire floor is going to find out about the stash and your generous, wants to make friends right now young adult is going to give out granola bars or whatever to everyone who comes to his/her room after the Dining Hall closes. For more details on good habits at school or saving money, check out the rest of our Guide for In-School Students.