Look around your college dining hall, and you’ll see greasy temptations abound: pizza, fried foods, french fries, burgers and more. Indulging is necessary from time to time, but maintaining a balanced diet isn’t just crucial for you physically — it keeps you mentally in shape as well. Unhealthy usually means cheap and easy, so college students often choose less nutritious options when they get the chance. Here are some tips for keeping your diet balanced throughout the school year, even on a starving college student’s budget:
• Get your fill of veggies at the d-hall: As stated above, fresh food is expensive. That means that most of your grocery store purchases will probably be carb related — breakfast bars, crackers, peanut butter, popcorn — and that’s okay. Carbs are an important part of your diet, so they’ll probably be a big part of your snack routine. Balance out the rest of your diet while you’re at the dining hall; eat plenty of greens, fruits, dairy and protein during mealtime and save the carbs for later.
• Plan your meals: If possible, check your dining hall’s menu online before heading over, then plan your meals accordingly; if the cafeteria is offering its irresistible mozzarella sticks for dinner, for example, you can plan to make a salad for lunch.
• Start from scratch: Unless they have an apartment, students tend to have fairly limited cooking resources. It is, however, entirely possible to plan healthy, filling meals on your own. Find a place to cook on campus; really, all you need is a stove and sink, and many dorms offer kitchens with just enough for you to prepare a simple lunch or dinner. Memorize a few simple, go-to recipes you can cook quickly, and experiment when you’re feeling ambitious.
• Be creative with your microwave: You’d be amazed at the meals you can make out of a dorm microwave, and no, I’m not just talking about frozen pizzas. Frozen veggies and fruits, chicken, pasta and rice — the possibilities are endless if you’re willing to do some extra shopping and press Start.
• Keep healthy snacks in your room: Stock up on your favorite, healthy snacks and keep them handy in case of an emergency. If you don’t have time for a meal or you’re tempted to grab some fast food during a late-night study session, grabbing a snack from your dorm room is an easy way to stay full until your next meal.
• Form a food community: Find other students interested in healthy eating and make plans to cook and dine together. It’s much easier to stay on a routine when those around you are making similar decisions. Talk to your Resident Assistant or someone at Health Services about how to organize healthy eating events, and form a community of health-conscious students to dine with.