balanced plate

Eating a healthy diet consistently is an important part of your overall health, but the often busy life of a college student can sometimes prove eating healthy to be a challenge. Following certain general nutrition guidelines will help you overcome that challenge. 

It is often too easy for students to grab an unhealthy snack because looking for healthy food or trying to cook can be difficult. Undergraduate Nutrition Program Director Cindi Inman said one of the best strategies to make time to eat is to get to know how often your body needs to eat.

“Pay attention to how you’re feeling — when you’re hungry and when you’re not hungry — and try to establish a mealtime routine if at all possible. Things are always different with class schedules, but try to get on a routine as much as possible,” Inman said.

When you do find time to eat, Inman said she thinks another good strategy is to make your plate colorful and nutritious.

“[I recommend] adding more fruits and vegetables and making it as colorful as possible. If students are living on campus, maybe stocking up on staple foods in the dorm room. If you’ve got a miniature refrigerator you can have things like milk, yogurt, fresh fruits and veggies,” Inman said.

With longevity in mind, Inman said students living in both dorm rooms and apartments should consider fresh foods with long shelf lives.

“Fresh fruits and vegetables and even frozen vegetables are a great choice since they’ll last longer. Packages of oatmeal, nuts, seeds and dried fruits are a good choice,” Inman said.

Senior nutrition major Sarah McConnell of Springfield, Illinois, said she thinks one of the best ways to maintain a healthy diet is to try to not overthink things.

“I think people are stressed out enough already, just keeping it simple is the best approach — and not beating yourself up over trying to have this ideal or perfect diet or whatever that is. Make sure you eat a variety of things,” McConnell said.

Being one of the most common reasons people change their eating habits, McConnell said she thinks managing weight is something nutrition is key part of, and that it can be easier than most think.

“If you’re looking to make changes, my advice is to start small. Make small goals, things that you know you can do, and that’ll build your confidence to try other things that you haven’t tried before — it doesn’t have to be anything crazy,” McConnell said.

McConnell said shopping for healthy food is much easier when you have a plan.

“Get a variety of things like fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Have a list when you go to the store and try to plan out your week,” McConnell said.

Junior psychology major Braden Furlow of Christopher, Illinois, said he tries to take a specific path when he goes shopping.

“When I go to any store, I try to stay on the outer edges —  nothing on the inner aisles that’s processed, frozen, canned or boxed. I try to shop near the produce, deli, certain pre-packaged meats and cheese and dairy,” Furlow said.

A common mistake people often make is not reading the nutritional info and serving sizes, resulting in overeating without even noticing. Furlow said he thinks the type of food is important, but that people should keep portions in their minds too.

“We forget how much we’re supposed to eat on any given day. [I portion] how much I eat throughout the day, and if I do eat three meals, breakfast might be small and lunch a little small — I alternate between lunch and dinner being heavier,” Furlow said.


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