Staying Healthy in College: The Top Eating and Workout Tips
Your first day of college is a blank slate. You’re in a new place, with new people, ready to make new experiences.
Will you adopt new habits, too?
While it’s tempting to indulge in the all-you-can-eat dining hall buffets, stay up late partying or studying, and only get a scarce amount of shut-eye, think twice.
Staying healthy in college isn’t an elective.
According to research, a staggering 95% of college students fail to eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables every day. In addition, more than 60% report that they don’t get enough physical activity.
It’s easy to push your mind and body to their limit, especially with peer pressure, a demanding schedule, and not enough hours in the day to pack in work and play. Yet, when you run too long on empty, you’ll crash before long.
Today, we’re sharing our top nutrition and workout tips to help you make the most of this transformative season. Ready to learn more? Let’s dive in!
1. Don’t Skip Meals
Especially if you’re taking a full course load, it can be easy to grab a coffee on the way to class and call it breakfast. The same goes for dinner. You don’t exactly have time to break during the middle of an intense all-nighter, do you?
You absolutely do.
Your body requires fuel to function. Though you might think you’re being more productive if you skip a meal or two, it actually creates a steep drop in your blood sugar.
This muddles down your mental clarity and makes it more difficult to power through that study guide. It can also make you irritable and quick-tempered, two traits your roommates might not appreciate!
The same goes if you’re skipping meals to lose weight. As many students worry about the fabled “freshmen fifteen”, some might feel tempted to deny themselves of food. When you do, however, your metabolism slows down, making it more difficult for you to lose weight.
A better approach?
Eat every three to five hours to keep your mood elevated and encourage brain function.
Finding Healthy Options
Not sure what kind of healthy food to grab? Keep oatmeal in your kitchen pantry for a quick pick-me-up when you need something to power you through the day. Mix in berries, nuts, and flaxseed for a substantial meal that’s chocked-full of nutrients.
Try to fill your plate with as much color as possible, sticking to lean meats, fresh produce, and whole grains. Eat slow, serve yourself moderate portions and stop when you feel full.
There are also plenty of quick and healthy entrees you can make in your dorm room or apartment. Check out this list of dorm-friendly meals for inspiration. From microwaved scrambled eggs to Mediterranean tuna salad, get creative and let your taste buds be the guide!
You might also find BBQ grills near your apartment complex. Invite your friends to join you for a delicious cookout complete with veggie kabobs and grilled chicken!
2. Choose Smart Snacks
That sleeve of Oreos might give you a little bolt of energy to tackle the next few classes, but sugar crashes are real, and they can wreak havoc on your evening.
Instead of reaching for calorie-laden, sodium-rich nibblers, reach for filling and nutritious options instead. The good news? You’ll find that most of them cost less and last longer than that bag of chips you can finish in one sitting.
Some healthy snacks ideal for busy, budgeting students include:
- Raw vegetables with hummus
- Sliced fruit with almond butter
- Low-fat string cheese with a handful of nuts
- Low-fat cottage cheese
- Greek yogurt
Stash portable snacks in your bookbag for munching in the library or before class. This can help you resist those vending machines that are often present on campus or at nearby convenience stores.
A favorite treat that satisfies like chips without the added sodium or calories? Unsalted popcorn!
Avoid butter-flavored or kettle corn varieties and dress it up on your own. Try it with smoked paprika, cinnamon or even a sprinkle of parmesan cheese for your next dorm room movie night.
3. Commit to Exercise
You’re no longer in high school. Your schedule looks different one day to the next, you’ve always got friends nearby and classroom expectations that can feel insurmountable.
With these social and academic pressures weighing on you, it’s tempting to put everything off until later. In fact, research reveals that 25% of college students become chronic procrastinators in college.
What are one of the first commitments to go? Physical activity.
You don’t have to pencil in a one-hour sweat session every day but try to keep moving and stretching as much as possible. When you do, you can lower your stress levels, improve your mood, and strengthen your heart.
The good news? You aren’t limited to the on-campus gym.
Off-Campus Workout Options
If you live off-campus, your apartment complex likely includes an on-premise fitness center and pool you can access.
Are you a graduate or undergraduate student at the University of California, Davis? If you live at Aggie Square Apartments, Almondwood Apartments or Fountain Circle Townhomes, you can squeeze in a quick workout at the complex pool/spa or fitness room!
All three complexes are in North Davis on Alvarado Avenue, one mile from UC Davis. There are also bike paths connected to each property so if the weather permits, you can cycle your way to class.
You can access miles of gorgeous pathed paths on the Covell Greenbelt in North Davis that are ideal for jogging, biking, or other park activities.
You can also set up your schedule in such a way that you must walk or bike across campus to get from one part of campus to the next. This is a great way to explore your university, connect with friends, and stay fit.
4. Guzzle Water
Studies show that more than 80% of college students drink alcohol and 50% of those binge drink.
Apart from the obvious dangers to your physical health, consuming an excessive amount of beer, wine or cocktails can also wreak havoc on your mental fitness. While you might keep refilling your glass to melt the stress and anxiety away, it will return when the hangover clears. When it does, it can leave you feeling less in control than before.
Alcohol not your beverage of choice? It’s also unwise to stock your mini-fridge full of Diet Cokes. Consuming these sugary drinks on a regular basis can lead to the following health concerns:
- Increased risk of diabetes
- Increased risk of heart disease
- Compromised kidney function
- Heart disease
- Metabolism changes
- Tooth enamel erosion
In addition, consuming too many energy drinks can leave you feeling jittery and anxious, compromising your sleep schedule and digestive health.
Your best bet? Swap out those 2-liters for a giant, refillable water bottle instead. It’s easier on the environment and easy to throw into your bookbag. Pick refillable water bottle in your favorite color or a pattern you love so you’ll be more willing to reach for it throughout the day.
If you have an 8:00 a.m. class and need a little caffeine to get you going, try herbal tea or black coffee. Skip the creamer and add a dash of almond milk to make it creamy.
5. Remember to Sleep
This one is easier said than done, especially when you’re a student burning the candle on both ends.
You’ll pull a few inevitable 12-hour cram sessions, but don’t make them a common occurrence. Did you know that getting fewer than six hours of sleep a night can heighten your risk level for obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes?
Even if you aren’t losing sleep to schoolwork or socializing, you might find it difficult to enter dreamland. One study showed that 68% of students lie awake at night worrying about big-picture issues including school and life.
Of the same group polled, 20% said they study through the night at least once a month, while 35% said they stay up until at least 3 a.m.
To help control your unhealthy food cravings, balance your metabolism, and replenish your energy stores, it’s important to know when to cut off the day to catch up on sleep. If you can’t get in all six hours on a day, at least try to get a 15-minute catnap when you can. Any longer and you’ll feel cloudy when you awaken.
6. Let Technology Help
Today’s graduating class is more tech-savvy and proficient behind a screen than any generation before it.
To that end, why not use technology to your advantage? While you’re taking notes on your iPad or scrolling social media before class, download a quick five-minute yoga workout that you can complete when you get back to your dorm.
There is a treasure trove of exercise apps available on your smartphone, most of which are free or inexpensive to use. Find one in a niche you like, such as cardio or dancing, and follow along. It’s a cheap but effective way to gain muscle and tone up without breaking the bank.
You can also use your phone to look up healthy food options nearby. These three apps take your dietary preferences into account and allow you to search for local eateries that cater to your needs. You can even filter and sort by cuisine and price!
7. Don’t Forget Your Mental Health
Research shows that 41% of college students who visit a mental health counselor on campus do so to help navigate anxiety issues. In addition, 36% seek treatment for depression while 35% need assistance navigating relationship issues.
Your emotional and mental health is as important as your physical well-being. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or stretched too thin, it’s important to reach out. A counselor can share some methods to help you navigate this taxing time.
One way to help ease tension and relieve pressure? Create a self-care routine and stick to it.
While you can’t slather on a face mask, run a bubble bath and put cucumber slices over your eyes every night, you can create an evening routine that you look forward to.
Your mind can’t run 24/7 and it can’t run on empty. Fill it with the good stuff it craves and give it a chance to rest. You can even download guided meditation apps that can help you tap into your inner Zen.
In addition to spoken meditations, some include peaceful music for quiet moments. Others feature self-guided questions that help you reflect on your current state and encourage gratitude.
Succeeding and Staying Healthy in College
Forget retirement. College years are the real golden years if you approach them the right way.
You’re about to take on more freedom than ever before, but you’ll have more responsibility, too. Rather than giving in to a lavish lifestyle of debauchery, sleep deprivation and empty calories – plan to make these the best four years of your life!
You’ve got enough to stress on your shoulders already and staying healthy in college doesn’t have to be hard. Find nutrient-rich foods and snacks that keep your energy levels up, make sleep a priority, and get your blood pumping with a little exercise every day.
Looking to spend your college years at UC Davis? Our three apartment complexes are rich in amenities, close to conveniences, and designed with you in mind. Contact us today to schedule a tour!