9 Healthy Eating Habits for College Students
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New freedom, a new schedule, and unlimited access to food can create some unhealthy habits around your diet. Sometimes stress and hyper-focusing on schoolwork can cause you to put a healthy college diet on the back-burner. But soon, not eating well will take its toll and you’ll realize putting your health first is important.
It can be difficult to change your diet, but you can do it! Follow these simple 9 healthy eating tips to establish healthy eating habits.
1. Drink More Water
The amount of water your body needs depends on many factors, including height, weight, and your level of physical activity. The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommend about 11.5 cups of water a day for women and 15.5 cups a day for men. You lose water through sweat, breath, and urine, and bowel movements every day, which is why you need to replenish lost water for your body to function properly. About 20% of your water intake will come from food, and the rest will come from drinks.
2. Avoid Stress-Eating
If you’ve ever experienced stress, you’ve probably experienced the desire to overeat. Stress can get very high in college due to a high workload, living away from home, and pressure to do well. When your body feels stress, it releases hormones. One of those hormones is cortisol. Cortisol often increases appetite for sugary or fatty foods. Indulging in junk foods too often will make you feel sick, gain weight, and lead to a lower quality of life. When you’re stressed, try meditating, exercising, or talking to a friend.
3. Have Healthy Snacks
Don’t let yourself be tempted by convenient snacks full of empty calories! Keep cut-up vegetables and fruit handy so it’s always easier to reach for healthy snacks instead of unhealthy ones. Take your healthy snacks with you if you’re going to class or a group study session. That way whether you’re home or out and about, you won’t be as tempted to grab something sugary.Looking for food and snack subscription boxes? Click here to find the perfect one for you!
4. Don’t Be Too Strict
One of the pitfalls that people fall into when they’re dieting is that they feel restricted on the foods they love, which makes them want those foods even more. Then they indulge in those foods and feel bad about themselves, which perpetuates the unhealthy eating cycle. If you’re trying to eat well, there’s no reason to diet. The foods you love will always be there, and you can eat what you want in moderation. The important thing is to make the healthy choice most of the time, not necessarily all of the time.
5. Learn Portion Control
Your parents may have told you that you had to eat all the food on your plate growing up, which sometimes made you eat past the point of feeling full. You’re probably used to restaurant-sized portions as well, which are misleading. When you enter college as an adult, you get to make your own food choices, and the responsibility to keep you healthy now falls on you. If you are used to eating your whole plate regardless of how you feel, start to pay attention to your body. Research proper portion sizes. If you’re used to not eating enough, the same principles apply. Listen to your body to stay healthy.
6. Don’t Cut Too Many Calories
Magazines, television, movies, and online media that target young adults often focus on physical appearance and weight. It’s difficult to navigate the world without feeling pressure to lose weight and look a certain way, no matter where you’re starting from. It’s okay to lose weight to feel better and healthier, but you want to go about it the right way. Cutting too many calories may sound like a fast way to lose weight but it comes with a cost. Your energy, metabolism, and brain function significantly drops when you aren’t giving yourself enough nutrients. Speak to a professional nutritionist if possible, to create your best diet plan. Best protein bars on the planet! Try Built Bar today!
7. Seek Help with Eating Disorders
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 10-20% of women and 4 to 10% of men in college suffer from an eating disorder. That’s a lot of students. Eating disorders often start between the ages of 18-21, and college life has many factors that can either exacerbate current disorders or even propel students already prone to eating disorders to develop them. Eating disorders should be taken seriously, and there is no shame in asking for help. If you find you are withdrawing from normal activities due to concerns with your weight, or you think you may suffer from anorexia or bulimia, seek out professional help.
8. Eat Nutrient-Rich Foods
Cutting out all junk food isn’t enough to have a truly healthy diet. You have to replace those with filling, nutrient-rich meals, and snacks to keep your energy and focus high enough to perform well. Pay attention to what makes your body feel good. Prioritize eating lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, foods high in protein, and lots of water. You can supplement your diet with vitamins if you feel like you may not be getting enough. As a rule of thumb, you should fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables each day. Healthy carbs and protein will help you stay full and give you energy.
9. Drink Alcohol in Moderation
If you drink alcohol, keep in mind that it doesn’t offer any nutritional value to your diet. It only adds calories and can dehydrate your body. Be very mindful of how much alcohol you consume. The CDC recommends up to one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men after the legal drinking age. The CDC does not recommend starting to drink alcohol for any reason if you do not already do so.
As a college student, your life is very busy and stressful. You don’t want your health to be one more thing to worry about. Follow these tips to feel happier and healthier.
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- “Water: How Much Should You Drink Every Day?” - https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256#:~:text=So%20how%20much%20fluid%20does,fluids%20a%20day%20for%20women
- “Why stress causes people to overeat.” - https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/why-stress-causes-people-to-overeat
- “Calories: Why Drastic Cutting May Backfire.” - https://discovergoodnutrition.com/2016/09/cutting-calories/#:~:text=When%20you%20cut%20your%20calories,you%20feeling%20tired%20and%20unfocused.
- “Eating Disorders and College.” - https://childmind.org/article/eating-disorders-and-college/
- “Dietary Guidelines for Alcohol.” - https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/moderate-drinking.htm
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