A photo of a hand holding a cup of yogurt, granola and blueberries for an article about healthy eating in college.
It may be easy to survive on diets of pizza and ramen in college, but getting your body the nutrients it needs can make all the difference in your physical and mental health. (Photo by Ellieelien from Unsplash)

3 Tips for Healthy Eating as a Busy College Student

Getting your body the nutrients it needs is important — especially with finals on the near horizon.

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A photo of a hand holding a cup of yogurt, granola and blueberries for an article about healthy eating in college.

Getting your body the nutrients it needs is important — especially with finals on the near horizon.

As college students, we know all too well how hard it can be to maintain a healthy diet. We have many things on our mind, from maintaining our GPA to managing our finances and socializing with our friends. With our busy schedules, it is easy to forget to make healthy eating choices. I am here to tell you that while our schedules may be busy, it is still possible to maintain a nutritious diet. Eating healthy in college is not as hard as you might think. To help put you on the right path, I have compiled a list of healthy eating tips that even the busiest college students can achieve.

1. Eat a Nutritious Breakfast

Breakfast — the most important meal of the day. You have probably heard that saying numerous times in your life. Although it may be hackneyed, there is a reason why this phrase has not disappeared over time. This universal notion still holds true, even today. Eating a nutritious breakfast, even if it is something small, is imperative for everyone; however, it is especially necessary for college students. When you wake up in the morning, you need sustenance to fuel your body and get you through the day. Ideally, this sustenance should appear in the form of a well-balanced, nutritious breakfast.

Although it may be tempting to skip breakfast entirely due to the overwhelming demands of college life, you must fight this urge. If you deprive yourself of your body’s need for fuel, it will retaliate. If you skip breakfast, you automatically put yourself at risk for both physical and psychological complications. These effects include but are not limited to: a loss in motivation and productivity, low blood sugar, cravings and headaches. In addition, skipping breakfast may result in worsened hunger later in the day, which can cause you to overeat.

I recommend eating a breakfast that is high in protein, healthy fats and whole carbohydrates (emphasis on the protein). Additionally, you should limit your consumption of foods that contain refined sugars and carbohydrates. These foods include sugar cereals, pastries and white bread. The initial burst of energy these foods provide you with will not last, and before you know it, you will feel hungry again.

Some quick, easy breakfast ideas that are high in protein and low in refined carbohydrates and sugar include avocado toast, eggs, oatmeal and fruit and yogurt. If you do not have enough time to whip up these meals, do not fret. Although the meal options I listed above would be ideal, a simple granola or protein bar can also do the trick if you are in a hurry. When I do not have time to cook myself breakfast, I usually grab one of these. I would recommend Quest bars and Special K protein bars, as I have found that they satisfy my hunger and fuel my body until it is time for lunch.

2. Limit Your Fast Food Intake

Yes, this includes Uber Eats, but that probably does not come as a surprise. It is a common belief among college students that they do not have time to cook or to indulge in a sit-down meal at the dining hall. Trust me, I’ve been there. However, the truth is that there is time — you just have to make it. Relying on fast food for all of your meals may be convenient in the moment, but it will prove to be detrimental in the long run. Fast food contains many artificial chemicals and flavors that will do your body more long-term harm than good. You have to remember that your body is sacred, like a temple, and you must treat it as such. You owe it to your body to provide it with wholesome, nutritious food.

You are probably familiar with the saying “You are what you eat.” This is important to keep in mind when considering what you put in your body. After all, if you make healthy food choices, you will feel better both physically and mentally, and home-cooked meals are always preferable over fast food.

As a general rule of thumb, an ideal meal should be balanced and contain a source of protein, whole carbohydrates and vegetables. Ideally, this meal will also include a source of dairy, whole grains and a side of fruit. It is perfectly fine if you want to have a movie night on Saturday and eat pizza for dinner — what matters most is that the majority of your meals are balanced.

Contrary to popular belief, these meals do not need to be expensive or time-consuming. With a quick Google search, you will be met with dozens of healthy and easy recipes. If you do not have a kitchen in your dormitory, you should be able to find healthy food options at your school’s dining hall. At the end of the day, the key to healthy eating is moderation. It is perfectly acceptable to eat fast food once in a while, as long as you don’t make it a habit.

3. Listen to Your Body

This third tip may seem obvious, but just like common sense, adherence to this basic rule is surprisingly uncommon. It is not always easy to identify your body’s hunger cues, especially when you feel stressed and anxious, which most college students often do. However, it is important that you pay close attention to your body and are attentive to its needs. A good way to become better at recognizing your body’s signals is to engage in meditation.

No matter which meditative practice you choose to engage in, if you meditate consistently, you will unconsciously become more aware of your body and its needs. Not to mention, meditation can also yield the secondary benefit of stress reduction. This decrease can make you even more attuned to noticing your body’s hunger cues, which can manifest themselves both physically and mentally.

Physical manifestations of hunger include dizziness, stomach pain and headaches. Mentally, you may feel lethargic or irritable. Although this may seem straightforward, you would be surprised at the number of college students who ignore these cues for various reasons. It is as simple as this: If you are hungry, eat. Denying yourself the nourishment that your body needs will result in reduced mental and physical capabilities.

However, the opposite also holds true, too. If you do not feel hungry, do not force yourself to eat. Emotional eating, or overconsuming food due to boredom or mental anguish rather than natural hunger, is a common issue that a lot of college students experience. This often occurs as a result of stress; however, it is nothing to be ashamed of. Fortunately, emotional eating can be easily managed with the help of a professional, or it may even dissipate on its own once your stressors disappear. The bottom line: You must listen to your body and make sure that it is being fueled with the wholesome nutrients that it deserves.

Writer Profile

Daniela Saffran

Rollins College
English and Business Administration

My name is Daniela Saffran, and I am from Massachusetts. I am a junior at Rollins College, where I am currently studying English with a concentration in creative writing. I have published five children’s novels, as well as countless poems and screenplays. I have been passionate about writing for as long as I can remember, and I am beyond excited to be working with Study Breaks Magazine!

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