Diets and eating healthy can be challenging, especially while going to school. My name is Thiago and I am a student that is tired of hearing that school has to be an excuse for eating disorderly and unhealthy. It does get very challenging as we go through the semesters with so many due dates and deadlines. Where am I going to find time to cook? Do I need to spend a lot of money? Do I have to take 3 hours at the supermarket? No, no and no.
I hope this article demonstrates and inform you with tools and ideas you could use to overcome these barriers.
First, is the mindset. You need to want to change otherwise everything else will probably fail. The mindset is the best tool you can use, it is the ignition, the small fire on the fire pit. Setting the right mindset for willing to change your eating habits is the first and most important step in this process. It will define everything but also you need to keep fueling that desire and keep on going.
Eat high-quality junk food. Always check for the best junk food you can find. At the cafeteria, fast foods around the campus, wherever it is. As students we all have very restrictive budgets and so it is better to go with the cheap but also the cheap can be good if you research. There are many tips nowadays that can be found on the web. Sites, blogs, social media, etc. Use those in your favor, explore and find new delicious places.
Stock up on healthy staples. That mini-fridge is definitely not going to accommodate all the prepared (and expensive) options your Whole Foods has to offer. But that doesn't mean your bedroom needs to be filled with high-preservative, high-calorie snacks. Buy healthy foods with a long shelf life, like nuts, seeds, dried fruit, rice cakes, and multi-grain crackers. Apples and citrus fruits can sit out for up to two weeks, and raw veggies and hummus are good options too.
Always choose the fruit over other sweets. Your college dining hall probably doesn't encourage students to take food to go, but typically there's a fair-game basket of produce hanging out somewhere near the exit. Take the fruit, even if you don't think you want it because if you have it in your bag, you're going to eat it, and chances are it will keep you from grabbing something less healthy on the go. Another reason to reach for that banana? You're paying for it—it's literally included in the price of your meal plan. So every time you walk past that basket, you're essentially leaving perfectly good, already-purchased groceries in the checkout aisle.
Think of the dining hall as a classroom. You're at college to learn, right? Then take your education beyond your political science lecture: Get in touch with the cafeteria nutrition info and teach yourself something. This isn't about calorie-counting though! Determining where your food is coming from and what it's being made with is a step towards really owning what you eat, which of course can lead to making responsible, informed decisions about your diet. You can also reach out to the campus health department and take your questions about the dining hall food to your school's nutritionist—you might be surprised what you learn.
Listen to your body. We've all heard that late-night snacking isn't a particularly smart choice, but if you're hungry, you're hungry. Denying yourself isn't going to change that, but rethinking how you're eating throughout the day might. Learn to eat until you're full so that you're not creating an opening for cravings later on in the day. Also, fullness comes in different forms! Eat foods that are sustaining (like oatmeal), and make sure that when you grab a salad, you're also including an appropriate (i.e. card deck-sized) serving of protein and not just a big bowl of greens that will leave you wanting more in an hour. And what if you spend the whole day eating well and you still want that late night snack? Do it, but instead of packing away a piece of pizza at 1 a.m., pick something a little lighter like popcorn or even some dark chocolate.
Experiment with what you're eating. Eat mindfully and pay attention to what works for your body and what doesn't. I always ask, "How does that food affect my mood, my energy, my sleep, and my digestion?" Particularly in a day and age when we're more conscious than ever about food sensitivities and allergies, it's important to keep track of what impacts you, both negatively and positively. Do you always have a brain fog after pasta, or does your morning yogurt seem to make your nose stuffy? Keep note and adjust accordingly.
And find food-spiration! When I look at my Instagram and see all these healthy recipes and pictures of great food, it puts me in a good place throughout the day. It works like this: You see an awesome-looking quinoa salad in your Instagram feed in the afternoon, and because you've got that on your mind, maybe you skip tonight's cheeseburger and go with a grain and roasted butternut squash mix from the salad bar instead.