I’m sure we’ve all heard of ‘the freshman fifteen’ + if you’re a freshman, you may be trying your best to avoid that. Or even if you aren’t a freshman, it can be easy to put on more weight at college versus when your at home.

With college you go from normal eating to being surrounded by buffets + restaurants + meal plans which is quite the change in diet. If I’m being honest, I did gain some weight in college at first, but looking back on it, I learned so much + was able to implement healthy habits for the rest of the year + beyond.

I want to share with you some things I did + also learned about eating at college so that you can establish healthy eating habits in your life + set yourself up for success, not only in college but for the rest of your life.

Now this doesn’t mean you have to diet while your at college or limit yourself. Honestly being health conscious can be come addictive + unhealthy. So please don’t focus too much on the number on the scale or about counting calories or limiting yourself. The tips I’m sharing are simple + effective. You may gain some weight, which is completely normal in the grand scheme of things, but it can help you avoid the freshman fifteen + establish healthy habits.

  • try to have at least one vegetable on your plate

It can be easy to stack on a bunch of carbs on your plate or avoid vegetables all together because no one is telling you what you should/ shouldn’t eat. But you need those vegetables (and honestly all food groups)! A tip I personally go by at college is to have at least one vegetable on my plate when I eat. That way I’m still getting vegetables in + feel somewhat healthy. It’s important to eat a well-rounded meals + not just carbs, but overall it’s all about balance + it will pay off in the end.

  • don’t eat out if you don’t have to

 Eating out can not only get expensive, but it’s so much harder to eat healthier + make healthier choices. I know especially in college, eating out is more of a social thing or hanging out in the dining hall, but getting food when you’re not hungry or don’t need it is a problem.

Try to limit the amount of times you eat out at restaurants/ fast food places to only a couple times a week that way you aren’t breaking the bank. But if you have to eat out, some healthier food options are: salad, fruit, vegetables, bunless burgers + coffee with splenda. Try to avoid things like pasta, pizza + dessert and really look for meat, protein + vegetables… also as close to whole foods as you can when you are eating out.

  • buy your own groceries when you can

Whether it’s the dining hall or an on-campus restaurant, it is so much healthier (+ cheaper) to buy your own groceries + make things yourself. In college it’s easy to not know what you’re actually putting in your body, but when you buy your own food, you know exactly what you are feeding yourself.

Personally I make my own breakfasts because it’s not too much work + isn’t too expensive.  Some healthy breakfast options are: protein shakes, hard boiled eggs, cheese sticks, bacon, sausage + fruit. I also buy my own snacks (most of the time) to help as well. Some of my favorites are: nuts, protein bars, snap pea crisps or snack sized popcorn. 

Honestly it’s all about choices + substitutions so any time you can swap out eating out for eating in you can make a lot healthier of choices. 

  • find healthy foods you enjoy + eat them often

The easiest way to eat healthy is to find foods you enjoy + that don’t make you think of eating healthy as a chore. For me, that meant buying nuts + carrots with hummus to snack on during the day because those are healthy snack options that I will actually choose over other carbs.

I’m sure there are healthy food options out there that you enjoy, you just have to be intentional about buying them + not forgetting about them. Or you may have to get a little creative in how you buy them, like buying non-refrigerated things or snack packs. But like I mentioned before, sticking to whole foods instead of processed foods is way better for you. And eating healthy shouldn’t feel like a pain– you should do it for you + it shouldn’t be unpleasant.  

  • don’t buy unhealthy snacks

It’s kinda obvious but if you’re trying to eat healthier, don’t bring unhealthy options into your dorm. At the store, DONT buy the extra snacks + treats. It is tempting to buy unhealthy foods because they are cheaper or because all your other friends are or because they’re BOGO at Publix… but resist the urge. If you don’t buy it, then you won’t eat it. I found that I would snack on my unhealthier snacks more that the healthy ones I had. So the best thing to do is to just completely eliminate it from your pantry + don’t buy it. 

  • be conscious of what’s in everything/ add ons

There are a lot of calories that can be found in so many additional things. Calories, sugars + carbs can add up quickly so just be mindful of what you’re consuming. There are so many places where extra calories can be hiding whether it’s in your coffee, that extra chick-fil-a sauce, your salad dressing, ice cream toppings, whatever. If you are looking to eat healthier or make better health choices, start by cutting out the additional things. You don’t need extra sauces or whip cream or extra toppings or a refill. Educate yourself about the additional things you’re eating + the places where carbs may be hiding because that can help you make better decisions.

  • exercise

For me, the more I exercised, the less likely I was to snack + make unhealthy choices. I was more likely to want to eat a wrap or salad, rather than stuffing myself with junk food. Or sometimes even after a workout I wasn’t even hungry for a late night snack because of my hormones subduing the feeling of being hungry. If you are having a health mindset + are making good decisions for your well being, you won’t feel the need to ruin that hard work. 

  • try to stick to water only

There can be so many extra calories in sodas + other beverages. I know there’s also a lot of mixed opinions about diet sodas (I still need to research it for myself). Although your dining halls + restaurants have so many drink options, try to have water at meals (which also will fill you up so you eat less). Water is always the best option for your body.This is one of the easiest ways to cut out unnecessary sugars. But also treat yourself occasionally if you’re really craving something or have been doing good or to celebrate. 

I hope these tips could help you out a bit with eating healthy in college. It is definitely doable if you work hard + are doing it for the right reasons, but don’t get down for treating yourself or not being perfect. Remember to have grace for yourself + don’t constrict yourself. It’s all about balance + finding something that will work long term.

In college it may take some time to develop healthy habits + find a routine that works for you. It’s full of learning + trying things out, treating yourself but also learning to find healthy limits. It’s all a journey.

<3 Ainsley