It's that time of year again! This week was the first week of classes for myself and many college students across the country. I absolutely love this time of year. It always excites me to start new classes, meet new people, and this year - move to a COMPLETELY new campus! This semester is the start of my college career at the University of Missouri, and I could not be more excited to see what the next two years have in store. I can hardly wait to experience Mizzou and all it has to offer me academically, professionally, philanthropically, socially, and personally. I can feel that God has me here for a reason and I am beyond excited to soak it all up and make the most of it.
That being said, it can be difficult to stick to a healthy diet and find time to work out on a regular basis as a college student. Moving somewhere new and unfamiliar, late nights studying, free food EVERYWHERE on campus (especially the first week!), and social settings can lead to mindless, unhealthy food choices. Here are my top tips to dodging that dreaded "Freshman 15" (even as a junior):
1. Keep your room stocked with healthy snacks.
It's human nature to want to snack on a study break. Craving something salty? Instead of reaching for the bag of potato chips, try grabbing a lighter option like Skinny Pop popcorn or a bag of heart-healthy oven roasted almonds. These are both great snack foods that will satisfy your desire to "munch" without de-railing your diet.
2. Always keep a healthy option WITH YOU.
With classes scheduled smack in the center of your lunch time, you can be left feeling extra hangry after you get released, which can lead to over-eating. Try keeping a healthy, convenient snack on hand to munch on before or during class (if allowed). Things like Quest Bars, apples, grapes, almonds, granola, carrots, etc. are great options to carry in your bag to hold you over until you can eat a full meal.
Studies have shown that being sleep deprived can lead to over-eating. Try to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep every night to maintain adequate energy levels and avoid "distracted eating" often triggered by lack of sleep. Maintaining a regular sleeping routine is just as important as regular exercise and a healthy diet!
4. Take advantage of the salad bar in the dining hall.
Try eating a salad BEFORE every meal in the dining hall. Not only will you be consuming lots of nutritious veggies, but you will go in to your main course feeling more full and satisfied. Aim to make your salad as colorful as possible! Dining hall salad bars often have a large variety of chopped veggies - so take advantage of them. (Just try to avoid the creamy, calorie dense dressings!)
5. Watch your serving sizes.
Especially in a dining hall, where it is an all you can eat buffet for every meal, be sure and monitor the amount of food you are actually eating. Often times it can be easy to become distracted and go back for our third or fourth plate without even realizing it! Balance is key. Eat until you are fully energized and ready to take on the rest of your day - not until you feel like you're about to burst! Remember: FOOD is FUEL!
6. Pack in the protein.
I aim to eat a high-protein snack every 3-4 hours to keep myself satisfied all day long. Protein shakes, grilled chicken breasts, deli turkey, Quest Bars, fat-free cheese sticks, nonfat greek yogurt, almonds, peanut butter, etc. are great sources of protein to keep you energized as you go from class to class.
7. Always eat breakfast!
It may be tempting to rush out the door without eating breakfast to make it to your 8:00am class on time, but studies have shown that eating breakfast can actually IMPROVE your academic performance! (Check out this report by NPR about the relationship between eating a nutritious breakfast and academic success: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5738848). Try to make some time in your morning routine to have a bowl of oatmeal, some scrambled eggs and fruit, or even a protein bar on the go. (Try this Quick & Easy Flavorful Chocolate Oatmeal recipe!)
8. Use the campus Rec Center.
Most college campuses provide access to WONDERFUL recreation centers for their students! The rec center has it all - weight training areas, cardio machines, pools, basketball courts - the options available to students to be active are endless! Take advantage of these nice facilities at your school. My time spent at Mizzou's Rec Center is my favorite part of the day.
9. Try a fitness class.
A lot of college recreation centers offer a variety of group fitness classes. Boxing, Zumba, yoga, barre, pilates, and even WATER aerobics may be offered at your school! Check with the Rec Center about possible classes offered. Fitness classes are a great way to meet new people, make working out FUN, and hold yourself accountable.
10. Walk to class
Depending on how big your campus is, you can get a pretty good workout by simply WALKING to class! Mizzou's campus is HUGE, so I use my time between classes to squeeze in that extra cardio by walking from class to class. If your campus has a lot of hills - that's even better!
This semester, try to make living a healthy lifestyle one of your priorities. Keep in mind that the best project you'll ever work on is YOU!
Have MORE tips for the health-conscious college student? Share your thoughts using the links below!