College is the prime time for students to truly find themselves as they try out new things, work towards getting a degree, and really embrace all of the opportunities that only higher education can offer. You may even end up joining a club or program based on your interests, or get involved with a volunteer group. No matter what you decide to do, students will typically find that college is one of the busiest times of their lives.
Unfortunately, this frequently leads to students pushing their nutrition and physical health to the side. We get it, it's a whole lot easier to order a meal from a fast-food restaurant on your way to class than prepping your meals at home the night before, and it tends to be the same story when it comes to physical health. After a long (and sometimes stressful) day, the last thing most students want to do is work-out or prepare a healthy meal.
Though it may be hard to fit into your schedule, it's crucial to your overall well-being that you keep track of your nutrition and physical health while in college. What you do now will set the tone for the rest of your life, which is why it's important to get a head start.
It may seem daunting to change your health habits, but it's actually not so bad. A few small changes here and there can make a world of difference. If you're ready to develop new health habits, here are some of our best college health and nutrition tips:
Between classes, assignments, and your personal life, you may begin to feel as if you can barely even find time to do your laundry during the week, let alone workout. However, it's important that you take part in some form of physical activity a few times each week in order to keep your mind and body healthy. In fact, this study found that regular physical activity contributes to the prevention of several chronic diseases such as cancer, and also reduces the risk of premature death.
How much exercise a week should you be getting you may ask? Though any sort of physical activity is going to be beneficial for your body, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends that healthy adults get at least 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity or 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. Keep in mind that you only have one body to work with, so try your best to keep it moving.
It's a whole lot easier to quickly grab something from a fast-food restaurant while on your way to class than it is to prepare your meals ahead of time. Yet, most of the time, the food you're consuming from those fast-food restaurants is going to be significantly less healthy for you. One easy way to solve this problem is to meal prep. Meal prepping is when you plan out what food you're going to eat during the week, cook it all ahead of time, and separate your meals into different containers that you can simply grab and go each day. To get all of your nutrients in, Choose My Plate suggests that you make half of your plate fruits and vegetables, add in some whole grains and a low-fat dairy option, and to include some sort of protein.
Drink More Water
Drinking water and staying hydrated has so many benefits for your physical and mental health, including aiding in digestion, normalizing your blood pressure, protecting your organs and tissues, and so much more. Try to consume at least 4 to 6 cups of water per day as a baseline, and possibly more if you workout that day as you lose a lot of water while exercising. If you're having trouble remembering to drink your water throughout the day, try setting an alarm on your phone every hour and once that alarm goes off, drink some more water. Another thing that you can do is to purchase a water bottle similar to this one, which has times on the side to help keep you on track throughout the day.
Understand What You're Eating
All foods are certainly not alike. Everything you eat is composed of a unique nutritional makeup, and it's crucial to your overall health that you know what you're putting into your body. It can be somewhat confusing to figure out what's in the food you're eating, especially if that food doesn't come with a nutritional label.
Thankfully, there are many tools that you can use to help you get the proper nutrition that your body needs such as this food calculator from WebMD that will tell you the nutritional makeup for more than 37,000 foods and drinks, as well as this wonderful article from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) that discusses how to understand and use nutrition fact labels so that the next time you go shopping for groceries, you'll know what types of food you should put into your cart, and which items you may want to leave on the shelf.
It's easy to push aside your nutrition and physical health while in college due to the fact that you're getting used to the larger workload that's on your plate, but you should try and make sure that you're doing your absolute best to keep moving and understand what's going into your body. If you feel as if you're falling behind with your nutrition and physical health from time to time, don't panic. Simply follow the information above to help you get back on track.
If you feel like you're on track with your physical wellness, but want to check in on your mental health during college, be sure to check out this helpful article for some additional tips.