How to Stick to Your Healthy Habits In College and a Chance to Win $400
While I was conducting research for my book “The Freshman 15 Survival Guide: Tips and Tricks to Survive Your First Year in College Without Gaining the Dreaded 15lbs!
“, I interviewed dozens of current college students and recent graduates, as well as professors, parents and coaches. I was deeply troubled by much of what I learned, most of which confirmed my suspicions that staying healthy during college is not exactly an easy task.
On one hand, today’s college students are more keenly aware of the dire consequences of unhealthy habits and many are quite motivated to make positive choices. On the other hand colleges still offer far too many unhealthy temptations to their sleep deprived, overstressed students. Pizza, pasta, fries and other carb heavy or fried foods are still offered in abundance and seem to be the “go-to” foods for the majority of young men and women on campus
And while the Freshman 15 phenomenon itself is highly debated, there seems to be three “camps” among college freshmen and their upper classmen:
- Those who could care less about the Freshman 15.
- Those who are determined to avoid it and will make daily trips to the gym and the salad bar.
- Those who embrace it wholeheartedly and even make it a game to see how fast they will gain it.
That third one shocked me. I found endless tweets from guys and gals alike bragging about their regular food orgies:
“My dinner today was just a plate full of quesadillas, onion rings, and mozzarella sticks #carbs #freshman15”
“Pretty sure I ate so much this weekend I doubled my body weight #freshman15”
But what I found most discouraging is that even with the heightened awareness and wealth of information available about the importance of diet and exercise when it comes to our overall health and our ability to perform at our best, it is extremely hard for college students to stick to these healthy habits.
While most colleges offer plenty of good advice for staying fit and trim, they also offer an abundance of unhealthy food choices for college students to indulge in. I was shocked more than once when perusing the “Health Tips” section of a college or university to find at the bottom of the post discount coupons or other advertisements for all the fast food joints on or around campus!
Heck even high school seniors are bombarded with offers such as these:
And when it comes to late night offerings to curb the appetites of those burning the midnight oil, every item on the menu seems to be deep fried or loaded with far too many calories and close to zero nutrition — pizza, nachos, french fries, onion rings… or the fake “healthy options” like fried zucchini sticks… And let’s not talk about sugar laden energy drinks!
Yep food chains and your college digs are far more interested in their bottom line than in your waistline!
So what is a college student to do if he is committed to making healthy food choices?
Here are a few simple tips to help you stay on track with your health plan, no matter what:
Don’t skip Breakfast!
It’s far too easy to cave in to temptation when you are ravenous! Start your day with a protein rich breakfast such as scrambled eggs with veggies, half a bagel with a little bit of cream cheese, smoked salmon and a slice of tomato, or a delicious protein shake you can make in your dorm room. You’ll find you have more clarity and focus in class, and you’ll be much more likely to make healthy choices for the rest of the day.
Start your meal with a salad
A good serving of salad before your meal is the easiest way to get your veggies and curb your appetite so you’ll eat less of the other foods. Stay away from iceberg lettuce. Choose a mix of baby greens instead, romaine, kale or spinach, and add a rainbow of veggies. Avoid cold cuts and cheeses and dress your salad with olive oil and vinegar rather than ranch or thousand islands.
Eat your veggies!
Yep, your mom always told you to eat your veggies and now that you are far from home is the best time to head her advice. In an ideal world veggies should make up about half of your meal. Raw, steamed or grilled veggies are your best choices and don’t drench them in a heavy sauce!
Go Easy with the Carbs
I know how easy it is to turn to those rich comfort foods but are they really worth the torture you’re bound to experience when you realize your favorite jeans are two sizes too small? Make pasta and other carbs a small side dish rather than your side dish and load up your plate with lean protein and fresh veggies instead.
Take your time
Meal time is break time so sit down with some friends and enjoy your meal! Gulping down your food only leads to eating way more than you need since your brain won’t get the “I’m full” signal until it’s too late.
Drink Plenty of Water!
Water is your best friend, plain and simple. Forget sodas, ice tea or any other sugary drink. You don’t want those extra calories that bring you nothing more than a foggy brain and a few extra inches around your waste. No matter how you fill your day you should be drinking at least two litters of water a day. If you can’t stand the taste of water add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to your water bottle — lemon and lavender is one of my favorite combinations. Drink your water between meals rather than with your meals. If you’ve had about a litter by the time you sit down for lunch you won’t be as tempted to overeat.
Look I know you’ve got a crazy busy schedule between classes and the mountains of homework you need to tackle every day but you CAN and MUST make time for exercise. Not only will it keep those unwanted pounds away, it will help you de-stress and keep your mind sharp. All you need is 15 minutes a day of BURST or HIIT exercise (you’ll find plenty of sample workouts on this site). Try to walk or bike to classes as well and grab a couple of friends on the weekend for a hike and a healthy picnic.
Since it’s clear sticking to healthy habits while in college is a little challenging to say the least, I’ve partnered with United Healthcare to bring you a few special incentives through their We Dare You To Share campaign.
This month you’ve got three fun ways to qualify for some fun prizes — an iPad, a LeCresuset Dutch Oven or a $400 Gift Card, as well as weekly prizes of $25. To enter simply go to wedareyoutoshare.com and enter one or all of these dares!
The more you enter the better your chances so bookmark this link and visit daily to share a photo of your veggies, take the health quizz and create a fun healthy avatar.
Good luck not only with this contest, but most importantly with staying on target with your healthy living plans!
Have a fabulous summer!