Healthy eating has been something that I’ve done since I was a kid (yes, I have an “organic mom”). Growing up, I was a bit jealous of my peers’ Lunchables and Caprisuns, but now I’m grateful I started healthy habits at a young age — even though it wasn’t my choice. Regardless, I have definitely noticed a difference in how I feel when I eat whole, nutritious foods consistently in comparison to junk food.
With a busy schedule, a low budget and distractions of socialization, eating healthy in college can be a challenge. If you’ve been wanting to improve your eating habits, while not restricting, here are some tips that I’ve learned throughout my three years in college.
- plan ahead
One of the biggest reasons I’ve noticed I struggle with eating healthy consistently is that I’m more likely to grab something quick that isn’t as nutritious when I’m busy. To avoid this, every week, I make a small grocery trip to get essentials, things like fruits, vegetables, meats and other things that I go through all of during the week. I buy other things like grains, sauces and snacks less frequently. When I’m making my grocery list, I plan out what meals I want to make to avoid not knowing what to make at the moment or not having the right ingredients.
- cook in bulk
Continuing with the theme of having a busy schedule, meal-prepping can help college students have quick and healthy meals on the go. The term “meal-prep” tends to usually scare people off — images of making pre-portioned meals of chicken rice in Tupperware instantly come to mind. However, meal prepping is one of the best ways to ensure you’ll always have quick, healthy meals ready to go. Instead of portioning out and making the meals all at once, I tend to make food in bulk instead and put it in separate containers. Then, when it comes time to eat, I can put stuff together in different ways. I usually cook rice or protein pasta as carb options, various proteins and different veggies.
- bowls bowls bowls
Once all of your components are made, it’s fun to put things together in different ways, with different sauces and styles. Examples of my favorite things to make are different “bowls,” such as “Chipotle” bowls, stir-fry bowls, “Harvest bowls,” pasta with pesto, broccoli, chicken sausage and more. The combinations are endless and you can get creative with the different veggies, proteins and sauces you use.
- healthy choices eating/drinking out
In my experience, it can be difficult to deny plans of going out to eat or drink when it’s one of the most common socialization activities. If going out to eat is something you do consistently, there are ways to make healthier choices while enjoying yourself. And I’m not talking about ordering salads for every meal. When in doubt, pick a dish with protein as its main component, such as chicken breast, fish or steak, that comes with a side of veggies or carbs. In terms of drinks, avoiding super sugary drinks is best when looking out for health (and avoiding hangovers).
- do. not. restrict.
Despite everything I just mentioned above in ways to be healthy and make healthier eating choices, the number one thing to remember is to not restrict yourself. It’s so important to treat yourself and enjoy your life. It’s better to eat things that make you happy than things you feel will make you look a certain way. These tips are things to incorporate into your routine, but not every single day.
I’m sharing these tips purely to help you feel better from the foods you eat if that’s something you’re trying to work on. That being said, we are young and deserve to enjoy ourselves. So, eat that late-night Taco Bell and that brownie sundae. If you constantly worry about only eating “healthy,” you won’t get to enjoy all the foods the world has to offer. So, if you’re interested in incorporating healthier habits into your food choices, make sure you give yourself slack and allow yourself to eat less healthy things at times.