Eating Well in College: 13 Tips to Avoid the Dining Dolors
Simple nutritional advice for well-meaning students who have neither time nor money, or really anything.
By Molly Burke, University of Texas at Austin
If you’re anything like I was as a freshman, you’re floundering wildly in a world without home-cooked meals and nutritional guidance. Eating well in college can be done following these 13 tips might make it happen.
In my first year at college, I sampled a gracious spectrum of food-related paranoia’s: After a period of meal-card abuse and night sweats about the Freshman Fifteen, neurotic dieting and vitamin-deficient exhaustion soon follow.
Luckily, I managed to emerge from the fog with a nutritional sciences degree, and I’m living proof of life beyond Cheez-It dependency. I’m always looking to score some validation points by sharing my wisdom, so here are some handy food tips I’ve collected along the way.
1. Golden Rule: Find Your Chill
Don’t freak out if you gain a few unwanted pounds in college, and don’t prioritize weight loss over schoolwork, organizational involvement and acceptable levels of rite-of-passage debauchery. Eat whole foods you enjoy, indulge occasionally and exercise at least a few times a week.
2. Balance It Out
In college, there will always be unhealthy food around, whether it’s all-nighter library pizza or charity bake sales outside the gym. Instituting a scorched-dessert policy is socially limiting, but indulging in omnipotent free goodies at every opportunity isn’t great for your health. It’s about striking a healthy balance.
3. Educate Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself
For the love of god, put down the fitness tea. Health and nutrition is hot right now, which makes the market for bogus supplements ripe for entry.
Instead of wasting your money and youthful optimism on the latest Instagram-approved powders, check out evidence-based online sources for nutrition info like True Health Initiative or Harvard’s School of Public Health website. If you want results, you have to trust the peer-reviewed science.
4. Go Whole or Go Home
Resist the urge to transform your room into the Buc-ee’s warehouse. Instead of buying junky snacks, stock your fridge with whole foods: Minimally processed, natural eats like fresh produce you swiped from the dining hall salad bar, whole grains like quinoa and oats and unsweetened nut butters do the trick.
5. Don’t Get Caught Juicing
Natural fiber gets lost in the juicing process, so there’s nothing to slow down that cold-pressed sugar bomb as it shoots through your digestive system.
Just eat the whole fruits and veggies instead of faking an appreciation for lemony grass water.
The fiber will stall the fructose en route to your liver, so less of it ends up in fat storage.
6. Become a Coffee Snob
Unlike the syrup-laden Pumpkin Spice Latte, respectable caffeine sources embody elegant minimalism, with little to no added sweetener or milk. Start weaning yourself off of dessert-menu drinks and onto cortados and black coffee. Your body and your inner man-bunned Brooklynite will thank you.
7. The Ugli Truth
Varying your fruits and veggies is a great way to get all the vitamins and minerals you need to stay healthy, naturally. Think outside the apple barrel and look for plants with weird names: kohlrabi, radicchio, sunchokes and ugli fruit.
8. Taste the Rainbow
Skittles had one thing right. Brightly colored fruits and vegetables come packed with antioxidants to keep your cells right and tight, so eat plenty of ROYGBIV VIPs like purple sweet potato, rainbow chard, beets, blueberries and mustard greens.
Explore the international grocery scene.
Asian supermarkets have amazing produce selections and pre-marinated meats for foolproof authentic flavor. Nothing beats imported curry spice, the Mexican food at Texas michoacanas and breaking up the HEB monotony.
10. I’m Fast, Cheap and Easy
Healthy does not equate to expensive or time-consuming! There’s no hiding from Buzzfeed’s microwave lists anyway; put your clickbait shame to good use and zap yourself some rice and beans, gourmet omelets and butternut squash mug risotto, all without cutting into your library printer card fund.
11. Get Cultured
Veggies and whole grains contain hard-to-digest compounds that can leave you bloated. Probiotics to the rescue!
These “good” bacteria help break down the tough fibers in your gut. You can take them as pills, eat “live-active” yogurt or push your luck with the neighbor co-op’s home-brewed kombucha.
12. Join the Club
Get involved in your school’s nutrition and wellness clubs or create your own. It’s never too early to start honing your dinner party skills; delight your fellow millennials with your quaint ability to cook real food from scratch and operate this strange, medieval device known as a stove.
Paleo Diet Expectation: heaps of kale, grass-fed beef and coconut oil. Reality: bacon-themed muscle tees, ketoacidosis, a crossfit Groupon you never use and a vocal yet scientifically unsound superiority complex. If you must paleo diet, keep it to yourself.