School presents a lot of challenges. One of the biggest ones is how you can stay healthy.
It's easy to make poor food choices, and the "Freshman 15" can become a real thing.
So how can you stay on top of your diet and health while not depriving yourself? Here are five ways to stay as healthy as possible at college.
1. Taper Carbs Off Through The Day
Carbs are an energy source, and without activity coming up they are more likely to be stored as body fat.
So you want to cut out carbs later in the day as activity levels tend to drop off. Ideally, after 8 pm is when you want to start restricting them. Have most of them at breakfast and lunch.
For carbs, your best bets are going to be the cleaner options like oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, and sweet potatoes.
The best bet for dinners and meals later in the day will be salads with chicken and as many veggies as you want.
Try to go for spinach or kale instead of things like iceberg lettuce. Avoid heavy salad dressings and go with simple olive oil and balsamic or red wine vinegar choices.
2. Focus on Protein, Vegetables, and Fruits
This should make up most of your meals for a few reasons: focusing on protein and vegetables helps to stabilize your blood sugar and insulin levels that are triggered by cheap and refined carbohydrates.
When you cut out carbs later in the day, this is when you want to focus on just protein and vegetables. It will help keep avoid weight gain along with keeping you fuller for longer.
The three things that promote satiety are protein, water, and fiber — three things that you will find in vegetables and fruit.
With vegetables, go for as many dark greens as you can. With fruits, your best bets are going to be berries like blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries along with citrus fruits and apples.
3. Keep Healthy Snacks On Hand
This helps you in avoiding some detrimental choices when you just want something quick to eat.
Your best bet for snacks will be things like almonds, walnuts, green apples, celery, and carrot sticks with almond butter.
You can even carry around chopped up hard-boiled eggs and chicken. You just want to have something that will keep you full and provide some nutrition.
This will help you avoid grabbing that cheap snack that provides zero nutrition and actually makes you hungrier in the long run.
4. Bump Up Your Water Intake
Again, there are a few reasons you want to do this.
Water helps to flush toxins out of the body, regulates body temperature, is critical in digestion and absorption, and helps with cognitive function (I could have probably used more water after failing first-year psych for the second time..)
Proper hydration also helps flush out excess water, which can be a part of weight gain.
Signs of thirst may get confused for hunger signals, so when you feel hungry it might be potential dehydration, so have a glass or two of water to see if that staves it off.
The general rule of thumb for how much water you should drink a day is to take your weight, divide it in half, and convert that to ounces.
So a 150-pound person should drink (checks math on phone..) 75 ounces of water a day.
That equals around 9 cups, and when you consider most large-size glasses can hold around 2 cups, it really isn’t that much each day.
5. Drinky Drinky…
I have to touch on the drinking issue because it goes hand in hand with college.
Alcohol can be a real detriment to health and at a superficial level, a real weight gainer.
Beer is going to be the primary culprit, as it is an enormous amount of calories. You are basically drinking liquid bread.
You can go for light beers, but they contain so many additives and fillers that it’s more like drinking a chemical concoction.
The other issue is a lot of mixed drinks are so sugar-based that, once again, you are drinking an enormous amount of calories.
These calories will not fill you up, but lead to insulin surges that can cause added body fat.
Your best bet is to mix gin (which is the lowest calorie liquor) with soda water. If you want a juice, at least go for grapefruit or pineapple, as you will get some nutrients from it.
Try to match it with glasses of water to minimize that hangover the next day.
Wrapping it Up
College is all about finding that balance so you can enjoy your time but not put your diet and health on the backseat.
It’s also about making compromises; if you’re ordering pizza, at least load it up with as many veggies as you can.
If you keep an eye on making the best choices possible in every situation — and realize it won’t always go perfectly — you can know you’re making decent progress in staying on top of your health.