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Healthy Eating Tips for College Students
- Eat breakfast to increase your mood and energy level throughout the day. Eating breakfast improves your memory and concentration and prevents overeating at lunch and dinner times. If you aren’t a breakfast person, pack a snack high in protein to eat mid-morning to prevent feelings of extreme hunger by lunch time.
- Drink caffeine in moderation. Drinking an excess of caffeine can increase heart rate, cause irritability, restlessness, headaches, difficulty sleeping and anxiety. The rule of thumb is to limit yourself to 300 mg of caffeine (or 2 cups of coffee) per day. Remember that caffeine isn’t the only thing that can give you an energy boost – healthy snacks, a full night’s sleep, and drinking water can help you maintain energy levels and avoid a mid-day crash.
- Plan for snacks and meals every three to five hours. Planning your snacks and meals ahead of time is a great idea for students with busy schedules because it prevents overeating, unhealthy food choices, and grazing throughout the day. Plus, healthy snacking between meals will keep your energy up and make you fuller longer, leading to more well-portioned meals at lunch and dinner time. Try protein and fiber-filled snacks to give you an energy boost like an apple with peanut butter, fruit and nut trail mix, Greek yogurt, or hummus and carrots!
- Choose a variety of foods from each food group. Fruits, vegetables, protein, dairy, grain, and oils - to build a healthy plate. Include choices from all food groups to meet your calorie and nutrient needs when planning snacks. Aim for a colorful plate!
- Limit calories from beverages. Alcoholic drinks, coffee drinks, smoothies, and juices are high in calories, added sugar, and even fat and can lead to weight gain. Only consume these drinks occasionally and in moderate amounts to avoid packing on unwanted pounds.
- Hydrate throughout the day. Aim for half your weight in ounces. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, half of your body weight is 75. Therefore, drink 75 ounces – or just over 9 (8 oz.) cups of water – every day. Adequate water consumption improves mood and concentration, increases energy, and helps prevent headaches, water retention, and fatigue. If you don’t like the taste of water, try adding fruit slices or low-calorie flavoring packets like Crystal Light lemonade or peach tea.
Start with Small Changes…
- Choose baked or grilled entrees instead of fried items
- Eat more lean meat such as turkey, chicken, and fish and less red meat such as beef, veal, and pork
- Select seasoned steamed vegetables instead of french fries or battered vegetables
- Choose fruit and yogurt for dessert instead of cakes and cookies
- Request sauces or gravies on the side and use them sparingly
- Choose broth or tomato based soups instead of cream soups
- Select mustard, hummus or vinaigrette on your sandwiches or salads instead of mayonnaise and creamy dressings
- Fill 75% of your plate with fruits, vegetables, legumes (beans), and whole grains and 25% with meat and dairy
- Choose skim milk and low-fat yogurt instead of whole milk and regular yogurt
- Opt for whole grains when available
- Practice portion control by not going for seconds and stop eating when you are no longer hungry
More Tips to Stay Healthy
- Get at least 8 hours of sleep. Getting a full and restful night’s sleep improves memory and concentration, reduces stress, and has been shown to contribute to a longer life and a healthier weight. If you have trouble sleeping, you may want to try not drinking caffeinated drinks after 4 p.m., stretching lightly before climbing into bed, and disconnecting from your cell phone or other technologies an hour before bedtime.
- Engage in 30 minutes of physical activity daily. Exercise helps to reduce stress, maintain weight, improve sleep, and boost energy level. If going to the gym and working out on your own isn’t your thing, try bringing a friend to a group fitness class or going hiking on a nice day.