Many of us are used to playing a sport in high school or having our parents cook for us. Then, we get to college. As if that’s not intimidating enough, we’re forced to grocery shop, cook AND try to find time to stay active. Talk about independence!
You’re thrown into the whirlwind and expected to fend for yourself. Where do you even start?
It’s easier than you may think. Following a few simple steps will fend off those unwanted pounds and may even help you lose some weight!
- Plan meals ahead of time.
This will prevent you from mindlessly snacking when boredom strikes. Aim to eat 5-7 smaller meals throughout the day to stabilize your blood sugar and prevent overeating. Many of us have back-to-back classes and it becomes extremely helpful to have a healthy snack on hand (an apple and some almonds, a homemade no-bake granola bar, hardboiled eggs or a piece of fruit and nut butter) to avoid grabbing a greasy bag of chips or pretzels from a vending machine.
- Exercise at least 30 minutes daily.
This means ANY form of exercise! Find something you enjoy doing and stick with it. Join a club team or participate in sports. Park in a farther parking garage before class. Take the stairs, not the elevator. Rollerblade. Ride your bike. Go for a jog. Get outdoors and be grateful that you have the opportunity to be active- some people don’t!
- Buy food that will last a while.
For a sample college grocery list, click here. Since many of us are on a college budget, we want the most bang for our buck. Buying in bulk is smart. Buy a huge tub of oatmeal that you can make in the microwave (not the packets- those are loaded with sugar.) A bag of apples will last you a week or two. Almonds, 100-calorie bags of popcorn, and Cheerios are also some good ideas that won’t put you over your daily calorie limit.
- Make healthy choices when eating out.
Take a peak at the menu before you go. Scope out the healthy options and opt for grilled chicken or fish with a veggie or salad on the side. Avoid anything high in saturated fat- fried food, salad dressings, etc. Did you know that a typical side of ranch has over 200 calories and 16 grams of fat? That’s more than eating another chicken breast with your meal! You don’t have to deprive yourself, either. Everything in moderation. It’s OK to have a few french fries now and then, just don’t order the XXXL fries with cheese and bacon. Your body will thank you later.
- Know your limits.
Binge drinking- we’ve all heard of it. Some of us have done it. Some of us do it regularly. It’s college, right? Aren’t we invincible? No. We’re not. Not only are the calories detrimental to your waist line, the long term effects alcohol has on your body are insurmountable. Liver damage, premature aging and dehydration are at the top of the list. A large margarita generally has over 1,000 calories, which is more than HALF of what a typical college student needs in a day. If you’re going to drink (and you’re of age, of course) be smart about it. Pick a light beer or stick with a vodka tonic. Pace yourself and know how much your body can handle. No amount of alcohol is worth your life!
- Make sure you’re eating enough!
Many of us fall victim to peer pressure. We come to college and are introduced to a whole new world full of pretty girls and attractive boys. We think we have to fit into some “mold” in order to fit in. Unfortunately, this can lead to crash dieting. We may subject our bodies to eating extremely low calorie diets in order to meet the status quo. This is not the answer! For more about this topic, click here.
Bottom line: Be smart. Get exercise. Make healthy choices. Pick the chicken breast over the cheeseburger and you’ll ward off that dreaded college weight gain!