How To Be Healthy While in College

While I was a freshman at Virginia Commonwealth University, the only good food options that I had were a balance between Panda Express and Croutons. Of course, neither option were necessarily the best. Croutons had the occasional dead-bug-in-your-salad scare and Panda Express was good, but given that most of the foods were fried and greasy, it didn't help with the healthy eating aspect. It was when I started noticing weight gain and energy fluctuations that I knew that my eating habits had to change. Here's a list of things I did that help me stay healthy during college:

1.) It is said that a part of staying healthy is 80% meals that you eat and 20% exercise. When I ate at Panda Express during freshman year, I started getting grilled chicken instead of fried chicken and got rid of any carbohydrates such as rice and noodles. Occasionally, I'd go vegetarian for the day and order the tofu to replace any meats. While I transitioned to living in an apartment my sophomore year, I cooked more at home so that I could balance my proportions and control what went into my body. I would snack on things like fruit, nuts and vegetables as opposed to chips and cookies between meals. 

Almonds, for example, are good snacks that keep you full. They are high in Vitamin E which helps with the health of your skin and hair!

Photo Credit: Yulia Davidovich

2.) In addition to having better foods, it's also important to pay attention to how you eat and how much you eat. Often times, I'll have my meals while watching TV or videos on my computer. This actually distracts your brain from paying attention to the signals your stomach are sending. This distraction causes you to mindlessly eat more before your body can even process that it's full. Additionally, the size of your dinnerware can actually make a huge difference in proportion control as well. Small proportions on a large plate makes you think that you're eating less, which generally causes you to load more onto your plate. Keeping your plates and bowls smaller helps monitor how much food you're putting onto your plate and into your body!

3.) Eating healthy always comes with the stigma that it has to be expensive. This is in fact false. The closest grocery store to my apartment is Kroger and all my groceries for the week are less than $30 and consisted of salad mixes, fruits, vegetables, yogurt and miscellaneous snacks. Other great grocery alternatives have opened up within the past year such as Aldi and Lidl which offer much cheaper alternatives but still have the same quality as places like Kroger or even Whole Foods. 

4.) Of course, exercise is just as important to feeling good. It is recommended that you at least have 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day. This can be a combination of walking to class, taking the stairs instead of the elevator or even taking a break to go to the gym for just 30 minutes a day. I found that the best form of motivation to go to the gym was to sign up for classes so that I was held accountable for going. Additionally, the classes made working out a little bit more fun than figuring out a routine for yourself. On days that I wouldn't have a class at the gym, I would have friends go with me so that we could push each other to work harder. 

All of these things helped me feel the best that I have ever felt. My energy levels were consistent throughout the day, I didn't have to nap during the day, and was able to keep up with the work load that I had. My mood improved where I felt happier. Being healthy in college can be hard, but these four pieces of advice can be applied to any aspect of your own life!