How to Eat Healthy On Campus

If most of your meals are in a college cafeteria or from a meal plan, then you know the feeling. You walk into Gateway or the Aloha Cafe wanting to eat healthy, but your options are limited to a salad bar with limp greens and soggy vegetables. Naturally you opt for a slice of pizza and fries instead. A lot of the time, the limited selection of wholesome, nutrient rich food is scarce and makes it easy for college students to put healthy eating aside.

The limited time, money, space or cooking equipment means that we have to flip our normal routine in order to eat healthy on campus. Whether you live in the freshman dorms with a kitchen shared by 100 others or you live in the apartments with a full fridge and kitchen to yourself, here are some tips and tricks to staying on track of your healthy eating aspirations, you ready?

  1. Get to Know the Cafe Options

UH has a ton of great food options and a lot of horrible food options. When going into the cafe, both are almost always provided. What I noticed was that most cafe stations are made based on what the university or “Sodexo” thinks is best. However, you don’t have to eat everything that’s at each station. I found that going to each station and taking individual things works great for healthy eating. For example, I would take a lean chicken breast from one station, switch to the other in order to get nutrient rich vegetables and move to another to get a whole grain. Tag on a leafy green side salad and BAM you’ve got yourself a well-rounded healthy meal!

2.   Stock Up on Staple Foods for Your Dorm Room

Having healthy food options in your dorm can ensure that you always have access to a healthy snack or meal when you can’t get to the cafe. A mini fridge can hold a lot more snacks than you think, such as greek yogurt, hummus, string cheese, fresh fruit and veggies. In your room or kitchen, designate a snack drawer with nuts, dried fruit, oatmeal, granolas, etc. I like to buy little ziplocs and portion my snacks so that whenever I’m late for that 9am lecture, I can just grab and go!

3.   Eating Healthy On Campus Doesn’t Have to be Expensive

I know the point of a meal plan is to not have to spend your cash on food outside of the university, so don’t! Your meal plan and points can get you some pretty nutritious foods on campus that aren’t in the cafe. Take for example the dorm room snacks I suggested above, almost everything I suggested is sold at the market! You can get precut fruit, oatmeal, granola, dried fruit and tons more. Use the market to your advantage and stay away from those mini pizzas and that damn good mac n’ cheese. If you’re willing to spend some cash every once in awhile, there is an on campus farmers market every Tuesday and Friday in Campus Center Courtyard from 8:30 am - 3 pm. They have delicious fruits and vegetables that you can easily snack on and cook with during the week! You don’t have to break the bank to break your bad eating habits.

4.   Use the Campus Center Food Court to Your Advantage

      Campus Center has tons of food options like Starbucks, Subway and Jamba, buuuut instead of swiping your meals at one of those places, I would check out the food court. It has tons of options from plate lunches to sushi, to a well-equipped salad bar. The salad bar is a great resource for a nutritious lunch, BUT be mindful, salads can be considered very unhealthy if they’re made with high fat ingredients. Tons of my friends use the food-court salad bar as a great resource to get a healthy on campus lunch without spending cash. The key to making these salads actually healthy is getting the leafy spring mix that is nutrient rich, with tons of vegetables and a protein on top. BEWARE of salad dressings. Too much salad dressing can turn what was once a healthy salad into a unrecognizable, fattening one! Go for a balsamic or Italian dressing and use half of what you normally would. There are multiple healthy options within the food court that can keep you on track of your healthy eating. (Just remember 12 pm is the lunch rush, so download Tapingo and skip the line!)

5.   Get Your 5 a Day

      Five a day is the initiative that encourages the consumption of 5 servings of vegetables and fruits a day. I know, I know, it sounds like a lot but you don’t have to eat those servings all in one meal or during one part of the day. Mix it up and keep your meals interesting by choosing from a variety of fresh or frozen options. Whenever possible, grab a piece of fruit before you leave the cafe, put some fruit in your oatmeal or cereal, toss some veggies in your omelet. Whether you make it at home or get it made at the cafe, add some veggies onto your sandwich or salad. You get the idea; add fruits and veggies into your food routine every day!

6.   Tune-in to Your Hunger Cues

      When you’re busy, it can be really hard to remember to eat. This is something that I cannot emphasize enough: skipping meals is one of the worst things you can do. I’m guilty of doing it too; being so busy that food is the last thing you can think of. Sometimes, having limited time can make it hard to stop and make the time to eat, I get it, but this can also lead to you eating more than you need later. Establish a mealtime around your classes, club meetings or job. When you set a time to eat every day, you’re more likely to follow it. Also, get to know your hunger and fullness cues with mindful eating. Don’t eat just because you’re bored or because there’s food in front of you, listen to your body!

7.   Indulge!

Chocolate chip cookies are something I’m never going to give up, no matter how healthy I eat. Part of being healthy is being human. Grab some chocolate, get that F’real, eat that market pizza, drink that frappucino with extra whip, sip on that wine! Not everyday is going to be perfect, and you shouldn’t expect it to be. It’s important to indulge, just because you’re eating healthy doesn’t mean your cravings are going to go away. Instead of eliminating these foods from your diet, it’s best to eat them less frequently. If you do feel guilty about these cravings, opt for a lower calorie alternative or a single size portion. Go out for ice cream instead of buying a pint of your favorite flavor, or substitute market pizza with having a pizza night where you and your roomies buy all of the ingredients and make your own personal ones!

Eating healthy on campus can feel impossible at times, but if you make a conscious effort to follow these tips and be aware of what you’re putting on your plate, then you’ll be living a health-driven college experience in no time!

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