College is an exciting and inspiring experience for students. The years spent studying can shape your future and help you form important habits. Though your college years are full of opportunity, they’re also full of challenges. Some of the challenges can be a positive learning curve, and others can be hazardous to your health if you aren’t prepared to prevent them and cope with them as they arise.
Attending college becomes a lifestyle that offers a new, focused routine. Students often become so caught up in their studies and social life, however, that they forget to take care of themselves. You may find you forget to eat well, exercise regularly, or take time for yourself to do things you enjoy. Neglecting your health can negatively impact your studies and hard work.
Fortunately, if you want to learn how to eat healthy or lose weight in college, we have compiled some of the best healthy living tips. Try following some of these to ensure you’re able to perform your best during your college years. Remember, every student and their college experience is different. It’s possible that while some tips work for some students, they may not fit into your lifestyle as well. Use these tips as a starting point to develop your own healthy, sustainable routine.
How to Eat Healthy in College
College may be the first time you’ve been required to completely fend for yourself when it comes to meals. Many students find it challenging to balance late-night study snacks with nutritional meals or forget to save time for breakfast in the morning.
Keep these tips in mind to make sure you keep yourself fueled the healthy way:
1. Resist Repetition
It’s easy for students to get into a routine, especially when it comes to meals. You may not think you have time to plan for a new meal every evening, but there are simple ways to prep ahead of time. You want to make sure you are getting a varied diet. By cooking larger meals every couple of days, you can save some for leftovers and still make sure you’re changing it up.
2. Don’t Skip Breakfast
We’ve all heard it before, but it’s true: Breakfast is the most important meal. It sets the tone for the day and provides you with enough energy to make it through to the afternoon. If you aren’t someone who can choke down a full meal in the morning, try smoothie recipes instead. If you struggle to wake up in time for breakfast, stock up on easy-to-grab breakfast bars or fruit.
3. Everything in Moderation
When you feel stressed, it’s easy to binge on your new favorite snack of the week. While occasional indulgences are usually harmless, regular over-eating isn’t a healthy habit. Try to keep track of the different food groups you’re eating and how big the portions are. Whenever possible, plan your week and decide which days you will go out for pizza with friends, and which days you will eat at home.
4. Pack Smaller Snacks
If you feel hunger pangs throughout the day, prepare smaller snack foods to bring with you to class. Eating smaller, healthy, and natural snack foods throughout the day will keep up your energy and focus. Small snacks are also ideal for those days when you’re running late or want something you can eat on-the-go.
5. Stay Hydrated
Hydration is essential for your mental and physical well-being, and it can prevent unhealthy habits, such as overeating. It will also help keep your energy levels up. Although the exact amount of water you need depends on factors like your weight and activity level, experts recommend at least 15.5 cups of water for men and about 11.5 cups for women.
6. Eat Your Fruit and Veggies
Natural sugars from fruits and vegetables, as well as other important nutrients, will leave you feeling fuller longer — and with more energy. The American Heart Association recommends you consume four servings of fruit and five servings of vegetables every day.
7. Watch Your Alcohol Consumption
Consuming too much alcohol can have a damaging effect on your health. It contains way more calories than you think it does. It can also cause dehydration, which can lead to a potential hangover. Too much alcohol also poses a significant risk to your liver. If you do drink alcohol, be careful not to overdo it and drink enough water to rehydrate your body.
8. Vitamins Are Your Friends
Your present diet may not be providing you with enough nutrition. Multi-vitamins are an easy way to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need. If you have any known medical concerns or deficiencies, be sure to discuss the vitamin with your doctor before taking it.
9. Fast Food Isn’t Better Food
Many college students end up relying on fast food as their primary diet. This isn’t a sustainable way of living. While it may be more convenient, it will ultimately have a negative impact on your health — and your wallet. A little bit here and there is fine, but try not to rely on it for regular meals.
10. Avoid Vending Machines
Similar to fast food, vending machines offer the same convenience. However, they rarely contain anything worth consuming. It’s better to stick with your own snacks from home, such as granola, homemade trail mix, or dried fruit.
11. Avoid Eating After 8:00 PM
By finishing dinner before 8:00 p.m., you’re giving your body enough time to digest before it hits sleep mode. Late-night eating can lead to unexpected weight gain, digestive discomfort, or could even keep you from getting a restful night of sleep. If you lose track of time or feel hungry after dinner, opt for a light snack that isn’t too difficult for your body to digest.
Exercise Tips for College Students
In addition to eating well, you also want to make sure you exercise. It may be difficult to find the time to do it, but here are some tips to help:
12. Workout First Thing in the Morning
Regular exercise is good for your body and can help reduce stress. Studies show that physical activity can also improve mental performance. An early morning workout can start the day off right, and it can give you the momentum you need to make it through the rest of the day. When you create a routine that allows you to work out in the morning, it’s often easier to make sure you get your exercise in, rather than trying to cram it in after class when you’re likely tired.
13. Get a Gym Buddy
Plan your gym sessions with a friend. This will ensure you each have someone to rely on and hold you accountable for your workouts. Plus, working out together is an excellent opportunity to pause your studies and have fun with a friend.
14. Invest in Good Gear
Investing in good quality gym attire and gear can help you feel more positive and confident in yourself, which will encourage you to hit the gym more.
15. Do Your Stretches
Regular stretching is good for muscle health, blood circulation, and injury prevention. You should stretch daily, especially before working out.
16. Try a Fitness Class
Not a fan of the gym? Many people aren’t! Try a class instead, like spinning, Zumba, yoga, or Pilates. These classes give you a great workout and are fun and challenging. It’s often easier to work out when you have a teacher guiding you. Fitness classes are also a great place to meet people and make new friends.
17. Join a Sports Team
Intramural sports teams are a fun part of college life. They help you meet new people, get involved in the school, and exercise all at once.
18. Walk to Class or Park Far Away
They say you should hit 10,000 steps per day, but for many people with a sedentary lifestyle, this can be difficult to achieve. According to health experts, if you can’t reach 10,000 steps, try focusing on adding a few more steps each day. By slightly altering some of your daily habits, you can maximize your step count. By taking the long way to class or parking farther away from school, you can add many more steps to your day with minimal effort. Just make sure you give yourself more time to get to class.
19. Get a Bike
Choose to bike to school instead of driving or taking the bus. Biking is an excellent form of exercise, and it’s good for the environment. You can start by setting a goal of doing this once a week, and then build on it from there.
20. Dorm Room Workout
Develop your own exercise routine you can do in your dorm room or other small living space. A routine of push-ups, sit-ups, squats, and lunges can help you fit exercise into your busy schedule more easily. Tailor your routine toward your interests. Maybe you like to dance or enjoy lifting weights. Whatever it is, incorporate it into your workout, and you’ll be more likely to stick to it.
Sleep Tips for College Students
When you’re trying to cram before your midterm, sleep often goes by the wayside. However, you still want to make sure you get adequate rest.
21. Prioritize Sleep
Proper sleep is one of the most important habits you can develop. Yet, it’s often the most sacrificed in college. According to one study, 70 percent of students reported not getting enough regular sleep. Other studies link adequate sleep with better school performance. Lack of sleep can cause poor focus and can make you sick. For these reasons, it’s important to make sleep a priority for your immediate and long-term health.
22. Master the Power Nap
If you get home from class feeling exhausted, a quick power nap can boost your energy levels before you need to tackle your homework. Set your alarm for 20 minutes to give yourself enough time to fall asleep without feeling groggy when you wake up.
23. Invest in a Good Mattress
The right mattress for your sleep patterns can make a huge difference. You’ll want to consider the kinds of materials that feel comfortable for you as well as any back and neck pain you may suffer from. Consult an expert before making such a big purchase. If you cannot invest in a new mattress, a good quality mattress pad can also help.
24. Use the Right Kind of Pillow
There are pillows designed for back, stomach, or side sleepers. They come in different shapes and materials. Selecting the right pillow can prevent you from tossing and turning and being disrupted during the night.
25. Make Your Bedroom a Sanctuary
Make sure your room is as dark as possible. You should also keep it quiet and cool. These are all ideal conditions in which you can sleep properly and wake up feeling rested. Take the time to make your bedroom feel like an inviting space with ambient lighting, soft rugs and plenty of extra blankets and pillows. The more at ease you are, the easier it will be for you to fall asleep.
26. Stop Using Your Devices 30 Minutes Before You Go to Bed
We’ve all been tempted to lie in bed with our computer or phone and browse through our favorite social media sites before we fall asleep. However, we now know that the blue light these devices emit can stimulate your brain and make it more difficult to fall asleep.
27. Don’t Consume Caffeine in the Evenings
Many college students rely on their morning jolt to get them through the day, but be careful when drinking caffeine at night. The effects of caffeine can linger for some time, and too much caffeine can lead to poor health. Try cutting off your caffeine intake by the early afternoon, so it doesn’t inhibit your sleep pattern.
28. Set a Bedtime Routine
Having a set nightly routine before bed will send signals to your body to start shutting down for the night. Try listening to calm music, reading a book, or drinking hot tea after you’ve gotten in your PJs.
29. Set a Bedtime
Set a goal for yourself to be in bed at the same time every night. Most adults need between eight and 10 hours of quality sleep each night to perform their best.
30. Don’t Pull All-Nighters
You may think an all-nighter is the only way to prepare for exams or to finish a project, but this isn’t true. All-nighters, especially when done regularly, can severely damage your health and weaken your immune system.
Immune System Health Tips for College Students
Germs are no one’s friend, but they’re really no good in college. Keep these tips in mind to help those unwanted germs stay away:
31. Wash Your Hands
There are countless surfaces you touch that are shared with others at school. This is why it’s critical to develop a good hand washing routine. This simple habit will prevent a number of illnesses. The CDC recommends washing your hands for at least 20 seconds.
32. Carry Hand Sanitizer
Can’t get to a sink before you eat? Pack hand sanitizer to quickly clean your hands before eating your meals. Use this after you’ve shared any items with others as well.
33. Don’t Share
An easy way to prevent the spread of illness is to avoid sharing items with others. This can include school supplies, books, food, or drinks.
34. Take a Sick Day
If you feel an illness coming on, then it’s best to stay home. Pushing yourself can bring it on further and spread your sickness to others.
35. Get Immunized
Most immunizations were received as children, but there are some specifically for college students. A physician can tell you which ones need to be updated.
36. Drink Herbal Tea
Proper immune system function is important for warding off illness and preventing fatigue. Herbal teas like dandelion, chamomile, and ginseng can help boost your immune system for better health.
37. See a Doctor
If you are feeling under the weather, it’s always best to check with a doctor first. You may not think it’s anything major, but sometimes you can develop infections you aren’t aware of. Left unchecked, these can be very serious. A doctor can help you get what you need to get back on track.
38. Don’t Smoke
Smoking is one of the worst habits you can develop. It creates long-term health problems and can also impair your immune system’s health.
39. Take Nutritional Supplements
Certain nutritional supplements, like zinc, probiotics, and Echinacea, can help boost your immune system. Consult a doctor before taking any supplements, though, as they may interfere with existing medications you’re taking.
Mental Health Tips for College Students
You have a lot on your mind as a college student, and these tips can help you stay on top of it all:
40. Know Your Limit
Every college student experiences a point when they’ve reached their max. Once you hit this point, you can start setting limits for yourself to prevent burnout moving forward. Set restrictions on work hours and stick with them. Take plenty of time for self-care and socializing with others.
41. Don’t Procrastinate
Putting off important and unpleasant tasks is a natural thing to do, but it’s a habit that can leave you feeling stressed and anxious. It can affect your confidence as well. So try prioritizing the hard stuff first — you’ll feel a huge sense of relief when it’s over.
42. Practice Relaxation Techniques
Developing positive mental health practices — like relaxation exercise, meditation, and deep breathing — can help keep you calm throughout the day. It’s especially important to practice these when you start to feel stressed or anxious.
43. Surround Yourself With Positive People
In college, you will meet many new people, and some will be a positive influence. Identify these people early on and make a point of spending time with them. It will help reduce your stress levels and build your confidence.
44. Take Study Breaks
When working on projects or homework, set increments of time for work and for breaks. Use an alarm if you need to, but be sure to remember to pause your work every now and then. During your breaks, get up, move around, and get a drink of water. When you return to your work, you will feel refreshed and ready to focus.
45. Follow a Routine
Implementing a daily routine that incorporates as many of these tips as possible will help create mental balance and well-being in your life.
46. Get a Hobby
Hobbies are a good way to develop a creative side or to release stress. By trying new things, you may end up developing a passion — or at least impressing your friends.
47. Don’t Rush out the Door
Make sure to give yourself lots of time in the morning to get ready and get out the door. Leaving yourself feeling stressed every morning to make it to school on time can take a toll on your mental health. Try not to do this to yourself daily. Before bed each night, set out the things you will need in the morning, like your outfit, homework, or keys.
48. Develop Time Management Skills
Time management is key. You will be very busy and have lots of responsibilities. Being aware of everything that needs to be done and making a plan to accomplish it all is the best way to prevent stress and burnout.
Emotional Well-Being Tips for College Students
Your emotional health and self-confidence are vital to your success in college and life. Ensure they are where they should be with the following tips:
49. Talk It Out
College is an exciting time for many students, but it can also be overwhelming. Many students feel signs of depression, anxiety, or other mental health concerns. According to a study from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, 42.2 percent of students surveyed had reported a diagnosis of at least one mental health condition in their lifetime. If you believe you’re experiencing depression or anxiety, it’s best to see a therapist. Many colleges have therapists on staff or resources that can help you connect with the right professional. It’s also helpful to confide in a close friend or family member and tell them what you are experiencing.
50. Volunteer Your Time
The quickest way to feel happy and good about yourself is to give back to others. Find a cause you believe in and donate your time. The positivity you feel from volunteering will improve all areas of your life and foster a sense of purpose.
51. Set Personal Goals
You likely have a general idea of what it is you want to achieve in school and your personal life. Make these goals as specific as possible. Write them down and look at them daily. This will help keep you on track when things get challenging. When you go through hardships, return to your list of accomplished goals and remind yourself that you have overcome obstacles before.
52. Embrace Change
College is a new experience for everyone, and it can seem scary and uncomfortable at first. Try to not to let it overwhelm you, though. Instead, embrace the change, and don’t get caught up in the little things that stress you out. These experiences only help you grow.
53. Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself
We tend to beat ourselves up when things don’t go the way we planned, but don’t get discouraged — the world isn’t going to end. Each challenge allows you to grow. Find the opportunity to learn from every situation, and remember that eventually, the dots will all connect.
Your experience in college is exciting and rewarding. The challenges you face all end up paying off in the end when you can look back and see what you’ve accomplished. Remember to work hard, try your best, and most of all, enjoy it.
*The information contained in this blog is not intended to be construed in any manner as medical advice. Therefore, please read our blog and use the information that you derive from it appropriately and at your own risk.