Have you recently decided to enroll in college? The decision to continue your education can be equal parts exciting and terrifying, especially if you’re working full-time and have a family to support.
Many people attending college find themselves perpetually exhausted from their busy schedules and lack of sleep. Those who manage to make the best of their time in college often do so in part because they maintain good habits, like staying organized and eating a healthy diet.
While most people understand the importance of healthy eating, juggling schoolwork with other daily responsibilities can cause you to put a thoughtful approach to nutrition on the back burner. The constant lack of time paired with limited resources makes it easy for college students to eat food that is fast and requires minimal effort to make (or purchase from a drive thru window).
A surprising number of students don’t realize there is a cause-and-effect relationship between healthy eating and academic performance. While eating healthy may not seem like a priority, it can give you the necessary energy needed to succeed during this crucial (and inordinately stressful) time in your life.
Surviving on the high sodium and minimal nutritional value of TV dinners and fast food may hinder your ability to focus on schoolwork and cope with the stress of everyday life.
Why Is Eating Healthy Important?
If you’re like most people, you probably know that eating healthy is necessary for maintaining a healthy weight. Unless you exercise vigorously, eating fast food and sugar constantly can cause you to gain extra pounds and feel sluggish during the day.
Maintaining a healthy weight isn’t the only reason to eat healthful foods. There are several other benefits:
- Decreased risk of cancer
- Stronger immune system
- Better mood
- Less risk of developing serious disease, like diabetes, hypertension and heart disease
- Better sleep
- Strong bones
- Healthy teeth
A nutrient-dense diet may also improve your overall cognitive function, which is vital during college. In other words, eating healthful food enhances your ability to think, learn, remember, problem solve and pay attention. The good news is you don’t have to spend a lot of money or countless hours in the kitchen to fuel your brain with healthful foods. There are several simple strategies you can implement to build healthy eating habits, even while attending college.
Eat a Balanced Diet
Your meals should be a balance of protein (lean meat, fish, cottage cheese, eggs), complex carbs (whole wheat pasta, rice, sweet potatoes and other vegetables) and healthy fats (olive oil, avocado, peanut butter).
A balanced diet can be a great source of energy and keep you from reaching for unhealthy snacks in between meals.
If you’ve chosen to eliminate certain food groups from your diet, such as meat or dairy, it’s important to take supplements, like vitamins and minerals, to avoid nutritional deficiencies. These deficiencies may not only slow you down mentally but also weaken your immune system and ultimately lead to health problems.
Most adults who eat a diverse diet of whole foods likely do not need supplements, but if you are cutting out entire food groups or you have certain risk factors (over the age of 50, are pregnant, or have certain medical conditions that affect digestion or your body’s ability to absorb nutrients) supplements may be appropriate. Make sure to talk with your doctor before beginning to take vitamin or mineral supplements.
Remember to Hydrate
Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water or even more if you exercise or have a physically demanding job–like nursing. Not drinking enough fluids can give you a headache and lead to dehydration.
Limit Your Sugar Intake
Consuming sugary foods and beverages makes your energy fluctuate. You may feel good at first, but once the “high” subsides, you could find yourself feeling sluggish and irritable. If you have a sweet tooth, try to replace candy bars and soda with fruit, and limit your daily sugar intake to no more than 25 grams.
Munch on Healthful Snacks
Snacking in between meals is not an entirely bad idea, as long as you indulge in healthful and nutritious foods. Nutritious snacks, like fresh fruit, string cheese, nuts and seeds, can boost your energy and focus and tide you over until your next meal.
Eat a Hearty Breakfast
Start your day right by eating something nutritious, like eggs with whole wheat toast or oatmeal with fresh fruit and peanut butter. Eating a solid breakfast will boost your brainpower and keep you alert and productive until your next meal.
Discover Flexible Healthcare Programs in Missouri
At the St. Louis College of Health Careers, we understand how challenging going to college can be. We strive to make our healthcare programs accessible to students from all walks of life by offering flexible scheduling options, online courses and financial aid resources.
To learn more, call 866-529-2070 or contact us online.