When it comes to food choices it can get very overwhelming so just don't over think it. Stay simple. Simple from the Earth foods in their natural form (fruit & vegetables), simple ingredients (the less ingredients the better), ingredients you can pronounce and most importantly water, water water!
Some general helpful tips for being away at college:
- Stay away from soda & energy drinks - they're not good for you and they don't actually give you energy. Drinking water can fuel your body naturally and help you stay focused when caffeine is fogging your brain during late night cram sessions.
- On that note, invest in a new water bottle. Preferably one that keeps your drink colder, longer such as a Tervis or S'Well. The price might scare you, but you can't beat their shelf life, they're good for the environment and my guess is you're more likely to drink cold water throughout the day if its available. Am I right?
- Take a daily probiotic. Again, they may seem a little pricey for a college student, but they pay for themselves when you're not having stomach aches or not at the doctors (as many new college students get sick being away from home) getting a prescription med for some air borne illness you contracted - yuck! Probiotics provide healthy bacteria for your gut (aka stomach) to thrive in a not so healthy lifestyle such as college. The more strains in the capsule, the better. Over 20 billion is best but I'm a big believer in that something is better than nothing. So if you take only 1 pill a day (with 10 billion) than you're on the right track.
- Stock your (mini) fridge wisely. Its not just for beer. Yogurt, water, sparkling water, fruit (bananas, apples, carrots, cucumbers), protein bars (see below), etc. All these quick go-to snacks will be readily accessible when you need them so you don't find yourself eating one more bagel and cream cheese sandwich while running across campus to your morning class after you overslept (guilty!).
- If you do drink coffee, make it count. Don't order it with milk (milk is NOT good for you beyond popular belief) or added sugars. A simple coconut milk latte or plain black coffee with a splash of almond milk creamer would be a better choice. These won't weigh you down, literally, and the caffeine might help you jump start your day. Any bottled caffeinated drink is a no-no. It will not help you in any way and will come back to bite you in the ass - I promise.
- Get moving! Get a fit bit, take a walk, join a gym, start spinning, practice yoga. Running is my happy place, my meditative state, my "me-time". Find something that fuels your soul and stick with it. Being away from home can be tough, but finding a place that makes you happy will help you thrive. When you eat well, you feel well. When you feel well, you move well. When you move well, you will be well. Its a beautiful cycle of survival.
- Remember that it takes while to form a habit, especially good ones. Take your time and know you are already ahead of the game if you're even reading this. Something will stick. No one is perfect, but we can all work together to promote a healthier community.
- Finally, Call your mom...She misses you!
Some simple suggestful on-the-go snacks:
- Lara Bars - Cashew Cookie and Blueberry Muffin are perfection.
- Kind Bars - made with almonds and dried fruit.
- Almonds - raw is best, but added sea salt is delicious and will do!
- Cashews - whole and raw are best, but they have many flavored types that are supper yummy.
- Fruit - whole fruit in its natural form is best.
- Veggies - This is a tough one for college students, but if you can throw in spinach once a day on salad or grab carrot sticks on your way to class a few times a week you're on the right track.
Those dreaded (or beloved) dining halls:
First and foremost the portion sizes are out of control. This is not the time in your life to have to eat everything on your plate. Make sure half (or even more than half) of you plate is veggies whether its in salad form or plain steamed vegetables and the other half protein. Don't be scared of carbs, but there are ways to choose the right ones. Whole grains, nuts and seeds are excellent ways to round out your meal and keep you fuller longer. Watch out for the dressings. Creamier isn't always better, but also watch how much you're putting on your plate. 1-2tbsp will do and thats it! Forgo the cheese as well as croutons, won-ton strips, tortilla strips, etc. They're not necessary and you won't even miss them.
Another wonderful tip for food choices is to not restrict yourself of anything, but rather continuously add new things to your plate. Our palettes change (aka evolve) as we grow and something you may have shied away from or not even liked a few years back could be one of your new favorite foods at this point. Sometimes all it takes is trying it in new form to fall in love. Take my kids for example, some are great eaters and others are terrible, but I always tell them to at least try it and then if they don't like it they don't have to eat it. Veggies can be cooked in so many ways - raw, steamed, broiled, sauteed, grilled, and so on. Each form tastes a bit different as well as the seasonings you put on them. You need to find YOUR flavor and I promise you'll learn to love veggies for the way that they taste and most certainly for the way they make you feel!
Water, water water. If you've ever started eating poorly and seen more acne pop up in and around your face it could be a number of things - hormones, too much dairy, lack of sleep, or it could be NOT ENOUGH WATER. We should all be drinking way more water than we think. If you figure it in terms of your body weight (b/c everyone is different) then try to drink your body weight in ounces. For example, a 125lb girl should aim for 125oz of water a day. If you break that down with a 24oz water bottle then you should be drinking about 5 full bottles a day. Very doable and a great challenge for yourself!!
I'm a coffee drinker so I can't fault someone else for being one, but if you're not- do not start. Green tea is where its at. Flavored with lemon you've got your caffeine fix AND you won't be addicted to the #1 drug in the world. Coffee also lures you into the added sugars, syrups, and massive sizes that are unnecessary to sustaining a healthy lifestyle.
If you're of drinking age and are reading this my #1 tip is stay away from fancy cocktail mixers which are loaded with sugar and stick to a clean drink of vodka, club soda + lime/lemon or a light beer. You'll appreciate this advice each Saturday morning when you're not nursing a sugar hangover. Oh, and don't smoke. Its just disgusting and terrible for your health. (My PSA for the day).
OK, so those are just a few of my tips for the day. I hope it helps you in your journey of life and know I'm behind you cheering you on every step of the way!