Do’s and Don’ts of Eating in College

Yesterday I gave you all a bunch of ideas and tips about packing school lunches for young kids. What if you’re a college student or you’re sending your son or daughter off to college? Everyone knows what happens in college you get there and there’s a ton of different food options at the dining halls and you think ‘Well it’s find if I eat whatever I want I walk to class every day!” Guess what, it matters what you eat! I graduated from Slippery Rock in May and I wish I would have researched healthy eating habits before I went to school for four years. I realized that the home cooking my mom made was so much healthier than the food I was eating when I was living in the dorms and what I was making when I lived in an apartment. Sure money is tight for every college student but there are ways to still eat healthy and be on a budget! You want to prevent you or your child from packing on that freshmen 15. Most universities have great athletic facilities where your college student can exercise however they want and some even have similar group fitness classes like we do here at WAC.  So let me give you some Dos and Don’ts for college eating!!

The Dos!

DO relax about making your own food or eating on campus food. It’s a big change to go from having your mom make your meals every day to having to do it for yourself.

DO bring some basic cooking utensils with you; big spoons, pot, sauce pan, strainer, spatula and a cutting knife. The worst thing is having everything ready to make a delicious meal and not having a cookie sheet or pot to cook it in! (I’ve done this multiple times). Look at Big Lots, Walmart, Amazon, yard sales and your own house to find cooking supplies!  Or you could do what I did which was to ‘borrow’ things from my own kitchen when I went home for the weekend, sorry Mom!

DO invest in some appliances; microwave, coffee pot, toaster and George Forman grill. You need to watch what kind of appliances you bring with you, especially if your living in the dorms because they have a lot of restrictions on which ones you can bring.  These kinds of appliances can really come in handy when your dining hall is closed for the night or the wait for delivery food is really long!

DO check and see if your dorm has a kitchen somewhere in the building. My dorm had a full kitchen on the first floor for everyone to use and it was great when we wanted to make a big dinner with friends! Most students don’t take advantage of it so it usually is free to use and you can make quick healthy meals without going very far! Also people love when there’s someone who can cook so you will definitely be making friends!

DO buy a Brita filter or drink tap water. I always bought cases of bottled water because I hated SRU water. I should have just bought a Brita and saved myself a lot of money and carried a reusable water bottle. Bottled water costs between $4-$7 for a case and think of what you could buy if you saved that per week! I mean you could buy a few drinks on thirsty Thursday! Not that your going to drink at college or anything, I mean you are there to study and learn!

DO bring eating utensils. Nothing is worse than making food and not having anything to eat it with. You don’t want to make yourself a bowl of soup and not have any spoons (I’ve done that) or make spaghetti and only have spoons and not forks (I’ve done that too).

DO check to see if your school has the nutritional facts for the dining halls listed online or at the dining halls. This is a nice feature for schools to have because then you can see how many calories your consuming when you decide to splurge and get that cheese burger, fries, pizza and ice cream in one sitting.

DO eat breakfast before you go to class.  I am guilty of not eating breakfast on a regular basis. In college I never ate breakfast. I’d get up, get ready for class, go to class and sit there starving and only thinking about what I should have for lunch. When you eat breakfast you will be more focused in class and it help to maintain weight.

DO snack smart. This is one of the main reasons why you can gain weight in college. I know its boring to study half of the time (thank god I was a communication major we had projects most of the time not tests!) and I know its easier to study when you have a delicious unhealthy snack in your hand. But remember the studying will help you and the unhealthy snack will not. Keep whole grain crackers, cut up fruits & veggies and yogurt on hand!

DO eat fruits and vegetables. This one is important. Yes I totally understand how sometimes that pizza looks so much better than the salad but that salad is much healthier. Unless of course you load it up with tons of unhealthy items and fatty salad dressing. So keep that in mind! But have some cut up veggies on hand so snack on too.

DO watch your portions. The dining halls are what is going to hurt you the most when your at school. It’s hard to say no when you have so many options to pick from so you end up taking a little bit of everything! Well that really isn’t the best thing to do. Watch how much you are taking of things, if its fruits or veggies take as much as you can! But if it’s fries, pizza, burgers and anything that looks like its been dipped in batter and fried, I would avoid those all together or take a very small portion of them!

DO have your mom make you a healthy care package! Look I totally understand wanting your mom’s brownies or cookies in a care package especially when your missing home but ask her to send you home made granola or healthy trail mix! These are easy to make and last a good amount of time!

DO check out discount grocery stores and farmers markets. Going back to school at this time is perfect because there is a lot of farmers markets with fresh vegetables at really good prices! Stock up on those now and freeze them to save money for later in the year when those things are a little pricier. Stores like Aldi’s and Walmart are also great places to get fresh produce and other items at lower prices!

DO exercise! I won’t lie, when you’re a college student you will have the lowest price for a gym membership in your life. In most cases it’s free so take advantage! Most universities offer group fitness classes and lots of equipment for you to use!

DO invest in a few cookbooks, especially if you’re living off campus. There are tons of books to choose from but try and get a few that are healthy!

DO surf the internet for food and health blogs to help you keep off that freshmen 15! There are so many websites and blogs dedicated to keeping you healthy and fit, take advantage of it!

DO get rid of that white bread & stock up on healthier options! Instead stock up on whole grain bread, pasta and crackers. Also stock up on peanut butter, canned tuna, and rice. These things will last you and they are quick and easy to use!

DO use those leftovers! Every time I made spaghetti we always had a ton left over for the next day and it was perfect for when I needing something quick before class. Another thing you can do is when you are home for the weekend have your mom make you your favorite meal or some healthy meals to take back with you and freeze for another time! I loved when I did this, I used to have my mom make wedding soup and I’d eat it for lunch all the time!

Do these things and not this!

Don't take one or two of everything like John Belushi does in Animal House.

Now the Don’ts!

DON’T eat takeout all the time. I know it’s so much easier to order pizza or go to a wing night and fill up on buffalo wings. But it’s cheaper and more fulfilling if you make your own meals at home! You will be saving your wallet money and your waist inches if you stay away from takeout, trust me!

DON’T just eat those frozen dinners and Lean Cuisine type meals. In reality most of those meals are just filled with tons of sugar and sodium and will only hurt you. I personally hated them! I’ve tried almost every brand of the ‘healthy’ ones and I didn’t like any of them. Now my roommate lived on them and would have one for lunch and one for dinner every day. Each one of those can cost up to $5 depending on the brand and kind you get. Stay away from them!!

DON’T charge everything on you or your parent’s credit card. It will come back to bite you when you graduate and you realize you have all this debt from just food and going out to the bars.

DON’T fall victim to an eating disorder. College is stressful and trying to maintain your weight is another thing adding to your stress but if you have things that you know you can eat that are healthy for you then there is no need to worry. But according to a study by the University of Kentucky,  “An estimated 11 million people in the United States suffer from eating disorders … Approximately 90 percent of them are young adult women during the college years. … 1 in 10 cases [lead] to death from starvation, cardiac arrest or suicide.”  So please just remember to eat smart and healthy!

DON’T become the typical college student with the beer belly. I know you’re at college it’s fun it’s exciting but try to keep a handle on the amount of alcohol you drink. Drinking too much can be a huge strain on your wallet, waist and health!

DON’T stress out about eating something that isn’t that healthy! Everyone needs a day where they just eat what ever they want. Just don’t make that every day that ends in D-A –Y! Go to wing night with your friends once a week or order out pizza on a Friday night but just don’t make it a regular occurrence and you will be fine!

DON’T drink a ton of pop. I’m currently trying to cut it complete out of my diet but it’s hard. We always have pop at my house and we always had it in our fridge at college. Instead go for flavored waters, water alone or the little packets with flavors in them to add to a bottle of water. Drinking pop and other high calorie drinks are just wasted calories and you don’t need them!

Don’t eat things like this!

Stay away from chips, cookies, crackers that aren't whole grain and Easy Mac!

So that was a lot of dos and don’ts but if you keep these in mind you will not pack on those freshmen 15 when you go off to school!

Recipes

Here are a few quick recipes for some healthy snack and meal options from some twitter friends!

From @CMatlick

Mix together banana chips, rasin bran granola cereal, marshmallows and vanilla wafers and dried cherries. It will make 2 huge bags that are perfect to take to class or for a quick snack!

From @Ms_Yale

Using whole wheat quesadillas and filling them with feta cheese and veggies. Using green peppers and salsa work really well! So easy and quick!

From @emilysriley

Making whole grain pasta with mushrooms and onions and heated pasta sauce in the microwave. It takes no more than 10 minutes and is delicious!

From @PoshPGHgirl

Making pasta, with onions and garlic sautéed with extra virgin olive oil. Then adding olives, plum tomatoes and basil. An easy dish with lots of flavor!

From me! @JcHickey1026

Make homemade pita chips by cutting pita into triangles and baking them till crisp. Eat with red pepper hummus and feta cheese! So good and a great snack when studying!

Follow us on Twitter too! @WACclub

Any body have any other quick healthy recipes they used to make or do make in college? Also, here are a couple of other tips for new or old college students that have nothing to do at all with health and fitness but I figured I would just throw in there!

Get involved! The best thing you can do while in college is get involved in different organizations. You will meet a ton of great new people and learn a lot!

Study! I know it sucks to study but it will help you in the end I promise!

Don’t procrastinate! I’m guilty of this one, I would procrastinate like no other before a test or project was due! It’s better to get things done sooner so you aren’t rushing to finish things or cram for a test!

Have fun! Just be safe about everything!

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