Worried about nutrition while in college? Here are 5 health tips for busy students

  • 4 Minutes Read

If you are a college student looking for health and fitness tips, you will discover it is easier than you think to stay fit and healthy in college. Our 5 tips will help you establish healthy patterns as you embark on your new life on your own!

Health tips for students

Health tips for students to use for decades

It is typical for the average adult to see a weight change (loss or gain) during transitional periods in life, such as moving, starting a new job, or getting married. If you're a college student, this might be the first time out on your own facing choices about eating and exercise. So read on to arm yourself with health tips for staying fit and healthy as a college student. Taking charge of your lifestyle habits can make a big difference in staying healthy and energetic.

1. Up your nutrition in the dining hall

The abundant choices available in the dining hall can feel overwhelming. These quick and simple strategies can help you maintain your focused energy.

2. Stock your room or apartment with healthy foods

Set yourself up for success by surrounding yourself with healthy foods for meals and snacks. Keep smart snacks within reach, like fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, lean meat sticks, cheese sticks, yogurt, whole-grain crackers, popcorn, and protein bars. Portioning snacks out into individual servings is always smart instead of eating right out of the large bag. You will be able to power through your assignments without feeling bogged down and sluggish from junk food and sweets.

3. Go easy on the sugar-laden drinks

Pop - Alcohol - Energy Drinks - Sports Drinks

Start your day with a big glass of water and carry a water bottle with you to stay hydrated. Good hydration is one of the secrets to optimal energy. It may be tempting to get sugary drinks from the dining hall soda fountain or vending machine with unlimited choices. However, the sugar and empty calories can add up in a hurry. If you select bottled beverages, read the nutrition facts on the label. Check out the serving size first. If there are two servings in a bottle, you need to double the calories given on the label. Did you know that caffeine and sugar intake gives a quick, short-lived energy boost, but eventually leaves you feeling more sluggish than ever? You will feel so much better, choosing water or reduced-fat milk at most meals. Need a flavor boost in your water? Add a small splash of juice or a slice of lemon, lime, strawberry, or orange for flavor.

Fruit juices that are 100% juice can provide a good source of vitamins. Remember you only need a half cup of orange juice to meet 100% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C. Try a small orange instead. It contains 3.4 grams of fiber to keep you fuller longer.

Choose low-fat dairy. You are still depositing calcium into your bones until your late twenties. This means you still need 3 servings of calcium-rich food daily to build strong bones. Reduced-fat milk, calcium-fortified plant milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, and cheese are all great options. Green, leafy vegetables, like spinach and kale, also offer a lot of calcium.

Also, go easy on the alcohol. Heavy drinking can definitely cause poor health, lethargy, and undesired weight gain. What is moderate drinking? Moderate drinking is defined as one to two drinks per day for men and up to one drink for women. One drink is 12 fluid ounces of 5% ABV beer, five ounces of wine, or one and one-half ounces of distilled spirits. And, of course, never drink and drive.

4. Stay active

Yes, you will have more sitting time during classes and while studying. Help counteract all that sedentary time with physical activity. There are endless ways to stay fit and active, almost without thinking about it. Walk to classes instead of riding. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Check out the gym. Quick exercise videos are another option to break up the sitting and give you an energy boost.

Join a sports team. Intramural sports are a fun way to stay active and make friends. Volunteering is social, fulfilling, and active. Seek out active groups, like a hiking or skiing club. Ask friends to join you for a walk, bicycle ride, or gym workout instead of sitting and socializing in the dorm room or apartment.

5. Manage stress in healthy ways

College is a great time to develop life-long, stress-busting strategies and skills. Healthy coping strategies will serve you well throughout your life when inevitable stress occurs. What better time to explore what works for you? Yoga, meditation, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, playing or listening to music, journaling, and physical activity all help promote relaxation. These practices are much healthier than seeking comfort food or drinking alcohol when stressed.

What is the "Freshman 15?" Is it real?

The "Freshman 15" is a common American term for the supposed typical weight gain seen in college students during their first year of college. Myth buster! Freshman 15 is actually an exaggerated concept and catchy phrase which is not research-based at all. Yes, it is not surprising that students may gain a small amount of weight in college, but research shows it is more like two to five pounds gained the first year, not 15. Young men are more likely to gain weight in college because they grow in height until their late twenties. In fact, both men and women are adding healthy body tissue (bone mass, muscle, and body fat) until their late twenties.

These health tips for students can be adapted and applied for everyday use for years beyond college, setting you up for a life of health and fitness success.

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Dining Out->Buffet & Cafeteria Weight Gain->Unwanted Weight Gain
Nov 26, 2021
Brenda Braslow
Brenda Braslow, MS, RDN, LDN, CDCES - Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES)

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