Eating in a dining hall can seem like a challenge. New college students dread the “Freshman 15″—the weight that many students put on during their first year of college. When trying to maintain a healthy college diet, it’s important to make good choices that become good habits. By following these simple tips from Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, a registered dietitian and author of “Fighting the Freshman Fifteen,” you can make sure that you keep your mind and your body in shape this semester.
Shop the dining hall
When I was an undergrad, I thought the dining hall was my worst enemy. This is not the mindset you want to have for four years. Instead, Flipse suggests using your college’s dining hall (if it’s not against school policy) as a free grocery store. “You’re already paying for it, so why not use it? Bring a thermos with you,” Flipse suggests “and you can use it to bring plant protein back from the salad bar, soups and whole grains from the bread station.” Your goal should be to get all of the major food groups in each time you step into the cafeteria.
“Choose healthy options. If there’s white and brown rice, pick the brown. You want a total diet, and you get there by making consistent good choices.” If all else fails, Flipse adds that “there will always be a baked potato somewhere.”
This thermos by Nissan holds up to 61 ounces of wholesome goodness. It has a Viewpoint score of 88/100 and reviewers love its versatility.
“I work all day long and on occasion I can’t find time to get to eat out. When I know I’ll have one of those days beforehand, I pull out my trusty thermos, one the most practical inventions to transport some healthy soups. I can use it to transport drinks and even some foods, and it maintains the contents at exactly the temperature that I stored them at: cold or hot.” – rocioacevesmtz, Reviewer since 2011
“Some may think it’s a bit expensive for a thermos. I am quite frugal – but I am well aware you get what you pay for! In this case, it was worth every penny.” – Shazzle, Reviewer since 2010
It’s not about the super foods
If you can’t find the vegetables, protein or whole grains you’re looking for in the dining hall, it’s important not to cave to junk food cravings. “It’s not about super foods,” says Flipse. “Are blueberries great for you? Yes, but that doesn’t mean that frozen fruit or canned vegetables aren’t better than going for a hamburger. Sure, wild caught salmon is full of nutrients, but so is a can of tuna fish or spinach.”
Keep wholesome snacks on hand
Keeping healthy snacks on hand doesn’t have to be expensive and, in fact, it’s a vital part of maintaining a healthy college diet. Snacks with a long shelf life — like apple sauce, citrus fruits or dried berries — can be stored in your dorm room. “Fruits with skin or rinds that you can peel are a good option,” says Flipse. “The outer rind keeps them fresh and you won’t be eating the parts of the fruit coated in pesticides.”
For snacks not tucked inside a peel, try using Rubbermaid Easy Find Lids Food Storage Containers (about $20 for a 24-piece set, 92/100 based on 147 reviews).
“These containers are high quality and you can usually find them at a low cost. I would suggest this to anyone who is a big leftover person. You can pack your lunches in all the assortment of sizes. The sizes range from big containers that will fit fried chicken perfectly to small containers that will fit the perfect amount of salad dressing for a salad. ” – WaltonHall, Reviewer since 2009
“You can snap a bunch of lids together and then stack a bunch of the containers to the top lid. They all stick together well and are easy to keep organized. I don’t think there’s one negative thing that I can say.” – coley223, Reviewer since 2010
Build healthy habits
The most important part of maintaining a healthy college diet is keeping your options open and making good food choices that turn into healthy habits. Studies show that too much junk food can inhibit learning, while eating foods high in nutrients like Omega-3 fatty acids can increase memory and learning abilities. By stocking up on easy to prepare and easy to store foods, you can contribute to your education in an important (and tasty) way.