Eating Healthy on a College Budget
I know with pressures around you, the constant access to unbalanced food and unlimited portions in the dining halls, and the lack of time or resources to prepare your own meals, it is more difficult to eat balanced, nutritious meals and avoiding feelings of isolation when trying to do so. In this blog post I want to offer some tips to employ when in college to make nutritious meals more of a habit while not succumbing to the pressures around you. I completely understand in college the financial demands placed on students is extremely stressful and required dining hall plans are sometimes unavoidable, but I want to offer some tips to find cheap and easy way to feel and live a more balanced life.
- Keep healthy snacks in your dorm. Keeping snacks or different, cheap alternatives for some meals is a great way to ensure you are eating balanced while still remaining on a college budget and schedule. Most dorm rooms at least have a microwave and a refrigerator in them, so find some meal that you can prepare yourself. Oatmeal is a great thing to make in the dorm topped with some nut butter and frozen fruit. This is a great way to ensure you are eating at least one nutritiously dense meal a day that you can control the ingredients in. Taking charge of your nutrition for one meal a day will ensure you are eating more balanced foods. It is always great to keep snacks in your dorm as well that are equally nourishing such as fruit, vegetables and hummus, brown rice cakes, etc. There are so many options available that are equally both satisfying and nutrient-dense. A great meal or snack for a dorm is also microwavable sweet potatoes. Found inexpensively at most grocery stores, they can be cooked in about 5 minutes and can be topped with a wide variety of toppings that are fulfilling and nutrient-dense.
- Exercise. It may seem basic, but this is so important. I am not recommending this for weight loss or weight maintenance, but I think it is a great form of self-care and a way to release endorphins during this stressful time of your life. Even just a walk around campus with a friend can be a great way to prioritize you and your mental health. There are countless free online exercise classes covering any style of exercise, and most universities have great free options for group exercise included in your tuition that can make this form of self-care fun and more maintainable. I encourage you to try out different classes and to make sure you are taking the time to take care of yourself and honor your body for just one hour per day.
- Set up a schedule. I know with how busy you are in college, schedules can be so difficult to maintain with the constant change of plans, new projects coming up, and different events day by day. A meal schedule that you implement for your week can be extremely important to ensure you aren’t skipping meals and are continuing to eat balanced foods. It can differ day by day as your classes and extracurriculars change, but ensure you are getting those meals in every single day. This is also another form of self-care that is good for your mental health. Ensure you are taking time every day and breaks to sit down and eat a meal whether it be in your dorm, apartment, or dining hall. It is so important to take these breaks from the daily stresses and chaotic nature of college to make sure you are honoring your body in a small way every day.
- Don’t skip meals! The schedule of a college student is so hectic that many students often turn to meal replacements or appetite suppressors to allow more time for studying, hanging out with friends, or pursuing different activities. I have seen so many college students drinking coffee to suppress their appetite, or consuming heavily processed meal replacements and ‘supplements’ to keep them going throughout the day without ever touching real foods. I strongly advise against succumbing to any of these tactics. They may be a quick fix but will set you up for so many issues in the future such as a weakened immune system, fatigue, and chronic issues with hormone balance. It is so important you make sure you are fueling your body with whole, nutrient-dense foods. It may take more time out of your day, but it is so important that you take the time to eat balanced foods at the right times, making sure you have the fuel to conquer your busy schedule. When you get in the habit of eating this way, you will find you have more energy and a better stabilized thought process when trying to complete the demands of college.
- Don’t work while you eat. This may be extremely hard for many students who are busy and trying to still eat while complete tasks. This is definitely better than skipping meals or turning to meal replacements, however, if you can I strongly advise you to put down your work and your phone when eating. Doing schoolwork while eating will spike your cortisol, causing drastic hormone imbalances which can create an imbalance when trying to eat and control hunger cues. Take meals as a form of self-care to catch up with a friend or meditate and re-center yourself. You will find yourself returning to tasks more rejuvenated and refreshed, while you continue to eat balanced and nutrient-dense portions. When you recognize and acknowledge your hunger cues, you will find yourself eating much more balanced and will face fewer cravings later on.
- Don’t pull all-nighters. With a college schedule and the demands of maintaining good grades while managing a healthy social life, there is often a pressure or temptation to pull an all nightery to study for a test or finish a paper. Sleep is so vital to manage your hormones, your cravings, and ensure you are keeping level energy throughout the day. Throwing off your circadian rhythm can create or lead to so many health concerns down the line. It is so important for you to plan ahead and create a schedule to work in studying or writing the paper so you can ensure you are getting ample sleep every night. Whether it is starting a few weeks early or skipping one night out with friends to stay in and finish, this is so important for maintaining a balanced and healthy lifestyle.
These are just some tips to allow you to maintain a more balanced lifestyle while in college. It is so important to prioritize yourself while in college no matter how hard it may seem. Eating balanced and nutrient-dense meals, exercising, getting ample sleep are just some ways to ensure you are performing some level of self-care every single day to live a more balanced life and become the healthiest version of yourself.