Whether it is your first year of college or your last, eating well can be a challenge.
Healthy eating challenges at school include not having a full kitchen in your dorm room, limited dining options on campus, late-night eating and having a student’s budget. With a few tips, eating well can be simplified!
Many schools will allow you to have a refrigerator and a microwave in your room. These two appliances can be life-changing when it comes to your diet.
A few things I recommend keeping stocked in your room include plain Greek yogurt, fruit, whole wheat bread, canned tuna fish, nut butter, pre-made hard boiled eggs, avocados, whole grain crackers, pretzels, cereal, dried fruit, string cheese, hummus, oats, nuts, granola bars and popcorn without salt or butter.
With these foods available in your dorm room, putting together quick meals or snacks is possible. A few meals you can quickly put together include a yogurt parfait with plain Greek yogurt, fruit and cereal; peanut butter and fruit sandwiches (peanut butter and banana, peanut butter and berries, and peanut butter and apples on whole wheat bread are all delicious); oatmeal topped with fruit and nuts; avocado “toast” with whole wheat bread, avocado and hard-boiled eggs; and tuna salad either on whole wheat bread or whole grain crackers.
You can also make multiple snack combinations including fruit with string cheese; fruit topped with nut butter; trail mix made with nuts, popcorn, dried fruit and cereal; yogurt and fruit; yogurt and cereal; yogurt and nuts; pretzels and hummus; and hardboiled eggs.
When choosing granola bars for snacks, I recommend looking for ~200 calories, less than 10 grams of sugar, and at least 3 grams of protein and fiber. Some simple changes can make eating well at the dining hall and out at restaurants easier. Choosing water instead of soda and juice will save you calories and sugar. One 12 ounce can of coke has 39 grams of added sugar and 140 calories.
To put this into perspective, 39 grams of added sugar is the equivalent of 9 1/3 teaspoons! Another simple change is to choose foods that are grilled, baked, steamed and roasted instead of fried or creamy. The USDA My Plate guidelines are an easy way to help build a balanced plate anywhere.
The My Plate method of meal planning includes making half of your plate fruits and vegetables, one quarter of your plate protein and one quarter of your plate starch, and preferably a whole grain starch.
An example of a healthy meal using this method would be a piece of grilled chicken in one quarter of your plate, brown rice in another quarter of the plate, and broccoli with a side salad for the other half of the plate.
Don’t let a busy schedule get in the way of your healthy meals. If you know you are going to have back to back classes without time to stop for a meal, at least pack a small meal to bring with you such as yogurt with fruit and cereal, a peanut butter sandwich or hard-boiled eggs.
It is beneficial to always keep snacks with you too, so that you don’t get over hungry and reach for whatever it is that you find first. Granola bars, nut butter packets, dried cereal, trail mix, apples and bananas are all easy snacks to carry with you from class to class.
If you still have questions about how to eat healthy at school, contact a Registered Dietitian. Dietitians are able to help you with meal planning while you are at school, and some schools even have dietitians on campus.
Have a great year in school!
Linzy Ziegelbaum, MS, RD, CDN