Maintaining Healthy Habits in College
By Sara Laiti
Living a healthy lifestyle as a college student isn’t the easiest feat to achieve. With projects and tests, extracurricular activities and a social life, finding time to eat healthy meals and exercising can be hard work! You’ve got classes and activities throughout the day and then spend all night in the library to study; it may seem impossible to make time to go to the gym or spend time at home to cook a nutritious meal. Additionally, it’s so easy to be peer pressured into maintaining unhealthy habits in certain social situations. When you’re with your friends and junk food is added to the mix, it gets pretty difficult to resist.
What makes healthy living harder is the need to eat on-the-go when trying to maintain a busy schedule. It’s admittedly much easier to grab your microwaveable ramen when you’re running late to your 1 o’clock class, or eat Cheetos from the vending machine at 3 AM because you’re hungry after writing a paper in the library all night. Or, it may just seem cheaper to eat unhealthy options.
- Every workout counts.
Yep, that even means doing air squats while typing a paper. That counts for something! If you really can’t find time during your day to go to the gym, squeezing in small workouts like that does more for you than you think. There are also plenty of short workouts available online that can be done in the comfort of your own dorm room, and you don’t even have to change your clothes to do them! If your day doesn’t begin until late in the morning or early in the afternoon, try getting up a little earlier and going to the gym before you start your day. This may be difficult in the beginning, but once you make it a habit, it’ll become just another part of your daily routine. If the gym is too far or you don’t have access to one, try going for jogs or walks outside, which is an effective workout that has also been proven to benefit mental health.
- Shop smart–it doesn’t cost a fortune.
Believe it or not, you can still eat healthily when living the dorm life. With fresh produce from the grocery store often costing less than most processed foods, using your microwave to steam veggies means you aren’t as subject to gaining the dreaded Freshman 15. Brown rice and canned beans are also cheap and healthy carbohydrate options, which can be steamed and combined with your vegetables to make for a filling, healthy meal. Grocery stores also have full rotisserie chicken for around $6, which can be used throughout the week for sandwiches or to add with rice and veggies. Lastly, nuts like almonds, peanuts, and cashews are loaded with protein and make an easy snack to grab on the go.
- Eat healthy, save time.
Avocado, paired with a slice of toast and berries on the side is a great breakfast option and takes no more than 5 minutes to prepare. It’s also easy to take with you if you’re running late to class. Additionally, cooking healthy meals like the ones listed above or making a salad is less time consuming than one might think. However, if you have no time to stop at home during the day to eat, consider meal prep, or preparing your meals for the upcoming week and storing them in tupperware. It’s perfect to easily grab in the morning and take it with you during the day.
- Make physical activity a hobby.
It’s easy to make pizza night in the student lounge a weekly activity, but find creative ways to incorporate physical activity into your friend meet-ups. Try getting friends together for a Friday run before a night of unhealthy eating and drinking begins. Start workout challenges in your group chat. If you’re really into team sports, join intramural sports teams on campus. When physical activity is done with friends, you’re much more likely to make it a habit.
- Always remember to stay balanced.
Be easy on yourself. Don’t jump right into a strict “healthy diet” mindset and get down on yourself for having a treat. As long as you’re incorporating eating healthy meals and exercising, you can allow yourself a “cheat meal” every so often or a small dessert after dinner. The important takeaway is to develop more healthy habits than unhealthy ones. Nobody’s perfect, so if you want to go out for a night or eat ice cream at midnight on a Saturday, let yourself enjoy! It’s all about maintaining a healthy balance in life.
College is a fun and exciting time, and creating healthy habits for yourself won’t only keep you healthy and happy, but it’ll make your college experience–and life overall–that much better.