Healthy Eating In College

January 4, 2013

Hi friends!  Now that we are in a new year (2013 already!?!) I wanted to write up a special post for those that are heading back to college.  A lovely reader (hi Camille!) asked if I could write up a post about healthy eating in college.  Warning: this is one lengthy post.

I went away to UNR for a year and a half before returning back to Vegas to complete school.  It was my first experience living on my own.  I lived it up in the dorms my first year.   Looking back, I did NOT eat healthy in college.  Unfortunately, that is where I gained a lot of weight.  Late night pizza, drinking games galore and large portions took a toll.  My situation is not uncommon though.  Looking back way before I was majoring in nutrition sciences, I could have used some of these helpful tips.

Let’s start with eating on campus… most commonly known as the Dining Commons, or DC as we used to call it. I would compare the DC to a buffet.  There are loads of different options for you to choose, both healthy and not so healthy.

How to Navigate the DC:

  • Have a plan. Most people that go to buffets often want to try everything and anything because they don’t have an idea of what to eat.  Since you eat at the DC most days, try to have an idea of what you will have ahead or time.  If you still aren’t sure, try doing a lap first before deciding on your entrée.
  • Make a healthy plate.  Failing to listen to number one, I would often have a plate fill of unhealthy carbohydrates and little vegetables and fruit.  Make sure your plate follow the myplate guidelines.
      • Carbohydrate options: bread, rice, pasta, starchy vegetables such as corn, peas, potatoes, etc.
      • Protein: chicken, beef, pork, beans, nuts, cheese etc.
      • Vegetables: Half your plate of any non-starchy vegetable
      • Fruit: 1 serving of fresh fruit or ¼ cup dried fruit.


  • You can always go back for seconds.  It is important to remember that seconds are ok if you are still hungry after eating a healthy plate.  You don’t want to fill up your plate initially cause often we will eat what is front of us.  After eating and chatting with friends (I swear, we would sit in the DC for hours) if you are still hungry, have a second serving.  There is a catch….make sure it is a fruit or vegetable.  Be sure to fill up on water too!
  • Salads are not always the healthy choice.  I think one of the reasons I gained weight was being exposed to foods I was not used to eating-and my mom wouldn’t have at home.  The salad bar was so much fun to me!  Croutons, bacon bits, cheese, ranch…the list went on

    and on!   If you want to enjoy

    a healthy and delicious salad, be sure to fill your plate with a variety of vegetables first.  Examples include lettuce, carrots, broccoli, celery and peppers to name a few.   Aim for one fruit option including dried cranberries, raisins, or fresh fruit like strawberries.  Choose one lean protein.  This can include chicken or other meat, beans or nuts.  Lastly, try to choose a vinaigrette based dressing since creamy ones (ranch, thousand island, bleu cheese) have more fat and calories.

  • Be mindful as you leave the DC.  I remember that frozen ice cream machine the DC has.  You can take an ice cream cone with you on your way out.  They actually have one just like it at the hotel I now work at.  Although you can indulge occasionally, those little cones can add up so make sure to limit them to once or twice a week.

If You Have Access To a Kitchen, Microwave, Fridge etc.:

  • Make a list and stock up.  If you have the option to go to the grocery store, fill up your dorm or apartment with staples such as fruit, nuts, oatmeal and peanut butter.  A lot of these items are great for snacks and healthy breakfasts.
  • Healthy can be easy.  Salads and wraps are both easy, yet healthy ideas to make at your home.  Fill your wrap with turkey breast, peppers, tomatoes, onions and hummus.  And hey, wraps are portable so no excuse to skip on meal when you are on your way to class!!  Quinoa dishes are also easy..this is one of my favs!


  • Enlist help.  Encourage your roommate or friend to get on board with healthy eating.  Not only will you keep each other motivated, you can help to prep and cook meals together.

A big rule of thumb:  be sure to choose your drinks wisely!  We all know that college is a time to party, but those calories from alcohol sure do add up quick.  Steer clear of drinks that have a lot of added sugar like

margaritas and jungle juice (good times!).

If you do plan on drinking, make sure you eat a healthy and balanced meal before.  We all know that a late night Del Taco run will not be the best thing for ya even though it will feel like it at the time. Winking smile

Thanks for reading!  If you need any more ideas for healthy eating in college, feel free to email me at

It’s your turn.  Please share any tips for healthy eating in college.

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