Studying abroad is both a fun and formative period in your life. Having left your home, you’ve now got many added responsibilities—for one, taking care of yourself depends solely on you. Eating healthy is sometimes a challenge in college, what with all the studying, stress, sleepless nights, and of course, social activities. This can result in poor health or often, the ‘Freshman 15’—a commonly used expression that refers to the weight (about 10-15 pounds) students gain in their first year at college.

If you fear falling prey to this unhealthy pattern, here are some useful and easy tips that you can follow to develop healthy eating habits in college:

Plan Your Meals

College meal plans include a variety of options. They are usually designed to benefit you, but can easily be abused; in a school where you pay a flat rate for each meal, it's quite tempting to opt for deep fried comfort foods and a selection of desserts. To make the best use of your meal plan in a healthy way, you need to plan your meals in order to meet your daily caloric intake. Avoid excessive carbohydrates; when consumed in high amounts, carbs can begin to stack up as reserves or fat. Let your nutrition rather be dependent on proteins and complex carbohydrates, which are easily digested.

Improve Late Night Snacking

We know how hard it is to avoid snacking at night, especially when pulling all-nighters for exams. When hunger strikes, make a conscious effort to eat healthy snacks. An apple is the perfect choice as it is high in vitamin C, B6 and potassium, which decrease blood pressure, lower blood sugar and helps you relax. Berries are another great snack, as they are high in fiber so they can fill you up quickly. Interestingly, a cup of berries contains less than 100 calories. Another ideal solution for late-night cravings is yogurt; this creamy and delicious snack is low in calories and a great source of calcium. This being said, do allow yourself to indulge occasionally. 

Cook Healthy 

Cook your meals if you have an opportunity to do so. This way you will know exactly what is going into your meals and can take responsibility for making healthy choices. You will also find that this is a cost-effective and personally rewarding experience. Cook several meals in advance, or one giant meal which you can divide into many portions and freeze—that’s dinner ready for the whole week! In this way, you’ll have more time for other activities, while still ensuring a healthy and balanced diet.

Establish A Routine

Never skip meals. Your day should always start with breakfast, because it provides the body with energy. Breakfast truly is the most important meal of the day.This meal should include up to 35% of your the daily caloric intake as it restores your glucose levels, which is essential for regular brain functioning. Several schools give students the option to bring snack lunches to class, which allows you to prepare your lunch bag in advance, and stay well-fed despite a packed schedule. A proper dinner on the other hand can reduce the urge for late-night snacks. Avoid carbs and extra salty food at night, as this can lead to tiredness the next day. Instead, fuel up on fruits and vegetables; not only do these have less calories, but they improve your sleep.

Don’t Drink Your Calories

Fizzy drinks may feel refreshing, but are high in calories and sugar. Try not to consume them, and when you do, dilute them with water or ice. A great alternative is to make your own drinks (tip: use honey or agave nectar as a sweetener instead of sugar) and place them in ‘to go’ cups.  

If eating healthy is a priority for you, it’s best to look for schools that focus on providing healthy meal plans. There are several campuses across countries that do offer such dining options. For example: the Bowdoin College in Maine purchases products from local farmers to provide meals that are fresh and use organic ingredients; the Washington University in St Louis partners with Bon Apetit Management Company to offer seasonal, vegetarian, kosher and halal meals, as well as special plans for those students with various food allergies; Queen’s University in Canada meets all the needs of its students, offering meals that range from comfort to vegan and gluten-free dishes.

Eating healthy in college may take a bit of work and might not seem essential on a day-to-day basis, but it’s certainly beneficial in the long run. We hope you choose to eat healthy for an improved college experience!

Was this blog a good read? If so, check out our other blogs, such as Stay Healthy, Stay Happy5 (Fun) Reasons to Study Abroad, and Smart Saving Tips for International Students.

About the Author: Dragana Dimitrievska graduated from the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of St Cyril and Methodius in Macedonia. A dentist by profession, she is planning to soon become a student again in the hopes of specialising in oral surgery at a university in Germany.