Sunny Hubler is a 25 year old graduate of the University of Maine with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Communication. She plans to pursue a job in the field that allows her to read and write excessively, travel, and take her soon-to-be dog on lots of walks. She is also a firm believer in the importance of the college experience and hopes to be a life-long learner herself.
For many, the first year of college is also the first year away from home. This means lots of new responsibilities and a whole new style of daily life. Amid classes, exams, socializing, and navigating your new world, health can often take a backburner. In fact, many aspects of “stereotypical college life” are downright unhealthy: late nights, lots of sitting, skipped meals, junk food in your dorm room, several-hour-stretches of exam cramming… the list goes on.
Of course, college also means you’re busy. One of the biggest barriers to health is the perception that to incorporate healthy practices is time-consuming and tedious. In fact, staying healthy in college doesn’t have to be difficult and will ultimately make your life that much easier. There’s a few key areas of health that tend to impact college students the most, so let’s break them down.
Healthy Eating: The notion of the “freshman 15” has been around a long time because it so often holds true. College can mean less healthful eating patterns and a lot less physical activity. There’s a few quick healthy eating habits that can be easily incorporated whether you are scrambling to make your own meals in your busy schedule, or relying on your school’s cafeteria. One of the best things you can do is to swap your sugary and/or caffeinated drinks for plain old water. (Bonus – it’s cheaper, too!). Also, make sure you are getting plenty of fresh fruits and veggies. People on the go tend to reach for packaged foods or skip meals entirely. If you’re in a rush or ravenous, you’re a lot less likely to choose a healthier option. Keep nutritious snacks on hand so if class runs late or you make other plans, you can still fit in a healthy bite to eat. Be conscious of your choices in the dining hall – many cafeterias offer plenty of pizza and burgers, but make it a routine to also grab a side salad or an apple each day. According to Kristian Smith from the University of Tennessee, one of the best things to keep in mind to eat for your health is maintaining a good balance of dairy, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and protein every day.