Staying healthy in college is no easy feat. When your cheapest option is often chowing down on free pizza at informational club meetings, and you’re constantly running between classes and extracurriculars (when you’re not going out with friends, of course), it’s easy to watch your fitness goals fall by the wayside. No wonder the Freshman 15 terrifies so many incoming collegiettes!
We asked Joy Bauer—registered dietician, Health Expert for The TODAY Show, and founder of the new snack brand, Nourish Snacks—for suggestions when it comes to making healthy, nutritious choices in a college environment. From how to avoid binge-eating when you're pulling an all-nighter to what you should eat when you get back from a night out, Joy offers some awesome (and realistic!) tips for staying healthy in college.
Meet Joy Bauer, health expert extraordinaire.
Her Campus: What should you eat in the morning if you have no time for breakfast before running to class?
Joy Bauer: Microwavable oatmeal is a great option, and you can boost the flavor (and nutritional value) by topping it with sliced banana, dried fruit, or chopped nuts and seeds—all nonperishable and perfect for dorm-room storage. If you’re a peanut butter (or almond butter) fan, spread some on an apple, a banana, or a few rice cakes, and take ‘em to go. If you have a mini-fridge in your room, pack it with Greek yogurts and tote one along with a piece of fruit or Nourish Snacks bag to class.
HC: How can you avoid binge-eating when you're pulling an all-nighter?
JB: Plan ahead for success! Munch on some of the following items while studying and you’ll stay focused, energized and motivated.
- Veggies with low-cal dip, like salsa, hot sauce, or light salad dressing—or 1/4 cup of hummus or guacamole, for extra staying-awake power. Choose from a laundry list of high-volume filling produce: cucumber slices, baby carrots, grape tomatoes, celery sticks, sugar snap peas, broccoli, cauliflower…You get it.
- Light popcorn is a perfect high volume, low calorie snack that comes packed with filling fiber. Each cup provides just 30 calories.
- Grapes, fresh or frozen. They’re sweet, non-messy, and only about 100 calories per cup. (That’s half the calories in a cup of chips, or 1/4 the amount in a cup of gummy candy). As an added bonus, purple grapes contain anthocyanins, an antioxidant that can boost your brainpower.
- Nourish Snacks. While all of the snacks are winners, Mocha-mazing (cocoa-dusted almonds mixed with mocha-flavored granola), Monkey Love (chocolate-banana granola bites) and Miss Popular (half-popped corn kernels mixed with dark chocolate morsels) provide the added bonus of dark chocolate, which has been connected with enhanced brain function.
- Lollipops. As a nutritionist, I don’t often advocate for candy eating (!), but lollis are less than 100 calories each and will occupy your taste buds for a while.
- Gum. A shot of flavor and a whole lot of chewing is often the perfect remedy for stress reduction during intense study sessions.
- Hot, caffeinated beverages (like coffee and green or black tea) provide a boost of caffeine to keep you raring to go. Just go easy on the cream and sugar.
HC: How can you keep yourself in check in the dining hall this year if you gained a lot of weight last year?
JB: Before hitting the buffet line, set a few ground rules to help keep you on track:
- Avoid all fried foods, including chicken, French fries, onion rings, fish sticks. Anything that’s been breaded and dunked in a vat of oil is calorific and will leave you bloated and sluggish. Go for grilled, broiled, poached, steamed, or baked instead.
- Go heavy on the veggies. Dive into the impressive dining hall salad bars, which offer a huge variety of creative, tasty toppings. If salads aren’t your thing, dish up some of the roasted veggies at the hot entrées bar.
- Minimize starch servings, including pasta, rice, bread, and potatoes. Starches are more calorie-dense than other foods and they’re easy to overeat. If you can’t resist, cap your serving at just one scoop (or one slice of bread) per meal.
- Nix soda. Need I say more?
- End on a sweet note. Stick to fresh fruit as often as possible, and when a dessert craving is too tempting to resist, limit yourself to half a serving. Or try this trick: Fill an ice cream cup with fresh fruit and top it with frozen yogurt (rather than the other way around) to boost the nutrient quotient and save calories.
HC: What are the best things to eat when you need a lot of energy and concentration for studying?
JB: Studies show that protein directly stimulates brain cells to help with long-lasting concentration, so make sure the meal that precedes your study session comes packed with at least one protein-rich option like chicken, turkey, lean meat, fish, shrimp, tofu, black beans, lentils, chickpeas, eggs, or Greek yogurt.
Also, if you have access to a blender, definitely try my Smart Smoothie. It comes packed with brain-boosting ingredients and tastes delicious.
HC: If you are going out drinking, what are the healthiest drinks that you can order?
JB: You’re always safe with a glass of wine or champagne (120 calories each), a light beer (about 100 calories), or a shot of liquor with seltzer and a splash of fruit juice, like cranberry or grapefruit (about 100 calories).
HC: What is the best snack to have when you get back from a night out and just want to order a pizza?
JB: Make your own low-cal, health-ified pizza using this simple recipe. Just 170 calories for the entire pie and takes only 5 minutes to whip together—nice deal!
Don’t have a kitchen? Buy a big bag of light popcorn and share it with friends.
Also, keep a stash of my Nourish Snacks on hand—they’re delicious and portion-controlled so you can dig in without any guilt or regret. A few post-partying favorites include Chili’n in the Corn’r (crunchy citrus-chili roasted corn), Mr. Popular (half-popped corn kernels dusted with sea salt), Hot & Popular (spicy peanuts & half-popped corn kernels), and Coco’nilla Crunch (crunchy coconut-vanilla granola bites).
HC: What are some healthy lunches and snacks that you can easily pack to eat during busy days when you don't have time to stop in the dining hall?
JB: Stash convenient, energizing snacks in your backpack at all times so when you don’t have time for lunch, you’re prepared to tame a growling stomach. Try:
- No-fuss portable fruit (apples, oranges, peaches, plums, bananas)
- Peanut butter & jelly sandwich on whole grain bread
- Nuts & seeds
- Nutrition bars (no more than 200 calories or 12 grams sugar)
- Turkey jerky
- Nourish Snacks
HC: Nourish snacks are packaged in portion-controlled bags, all for under 200 calories. Is portion control or calorie counting more important when it comes to staying healthy?
JB: Most everyone—college kids included!—wants to maintain a healthy weight and curtail their sugar intake. That’s why I packaged all of my snacks in perfect portions. This way, there is no risk of overeating… You enjoy the right stuff in the right amounts. And no matter what you’re craving—sweet, salty, chewy or crunchy—there’s a Nourish Snack calling your name.
There you have it! Joy Bauer's suggestions for how you can make nutritious choices in a college environment—we told you it was possible! Now that you've got these tips up your sleeve, staying healthy on campus will be a breeze.