Why Are Students Struggling to Eat Healthy in College?

Why Are Students Struggling to Eat Healthy in College?

College students have their work cut out for them. Students try to balance taking classes, going to work, exercising and maintaining a social life on a daily basis, which means their days are filled with many time-consuming activities. On top of all that, students have to find time to eat, which often poses more challenges than anything.

Being a college student is challenging, but eating unhealthily or skipping meals to save time makes the experience more challenging. All college students benefit from understanding healthy food strategies and the importance of eating healthy to eat more balanced meals that enable them to stay fueled all day long.

The Difficulties of Eating Healthy as a College Student

The Difficulties of Eating Healthy as a College Student

Getting students to participate in healthy diets is easier said than done. College attendees may even want to eat healthier, but the structure of their life prohibits it or makes it much harder to eat the right foods. The first step to overcoming these struggles is to acknowledge them. Here are some of the reasons why it is so difficult for students to eat healthy in college:

  • Having a busy schedule: Everyone who’s ever had a busy schedule knows how hard it can be to eat healthy foods. When students are short on time, it’s easier to make a quick stop at the local fast-food restaurant than prepare something more nutritious like a salad. Many healthier restaurants also take longer to prepare their food, and students may lack the luxury of extra time to sit and wait. When schedules get busy, healthy eating falls to the wayside in favor of quick and unhealthy meals. 
  • Adjusting to the change of living in a dorm: When students transition from high school to college, many changes go with it. The main change for many students is that they leave their parent’s house and start living on their own in a dorm. Dorm life is a lot different from family life, which could make consistent mealtimes hard to achieve. When students find time to eat, they may use their newfound freedom to eat all the junk food they always wanted instead of enjoying a balanced diet. 
  • Being broke: Eating healthy in college is harder when students lack the money to pay for healthier products. Every dollar counts for college students, so opting for a five-dollar cheeseburger instead of an eight-dollar salad can feel more budget-conscious, despite the negative health effects. Some students may find it impossible to eat healthier while staying within their monthly food budgets. 
  • Having few options in the dining hall: Some college dining halls leave a lot to be desired. Students may find few healthy options at their dining hall, and the healthy options they do find may be unexciting in terms of taste and presentation. If students rely heavily on their student meal plan to feed them, they may find it challenging to find healthy, appetizing options and instead may opt for less healthy options.
  • Worrying about a heavy workload: Students have heavy workloads, which can cause them a great deal of worry. And when students worry, making time for meals becomes sporadic and lackluster. Worried students are prone to lose their appetite or stress-eat their favorite junk foods. Good food for students’ brains is necessary to focus and do quality schoolwork, but students often turn to foods that end up making them feel worse in the long run.
  • Having no time to eat: Many students have such busy schedules that they feel they have no time to eat, so they skip meals. This habit can lead to an unhealthy lifestyle. Food is fuel, and students need to make sure they’re carving out time in their schedules to eat to boost productivity and feel more positive as they navigate their busy schedules. 

9 Healthy Eating Tips for Busy College Students

Leading a healthy lifestyle is essential for college students. If you’re a college student looking to achieve healthier eating habits, use the following nine tips to help you reach your goals. 

1. Try to Eat Breakfast

Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, and plenty of reasons exist to back up this claim. If you’ve had a good night’s sleep, then your proverbial tank is running on empty. Breakfast provides the fuel you need to jumpstart your morning and get the nutrients your body needs to function correctly. 

You’ll feel great after eating breakfast, which can help you better perform on those long tests and studying sessions. Even grabbing a quick banana on your way out the door can get your day started on the right side of things. Get the energy and nutrients you need to start your day by making breakfast a part of your routine. 

2. Choose Fast Foods Wisely

Let’s face it — we all want to satisfy our food cravings from time to time. And it’s a good thing to reward yourself once in a while, but make sure you do so wisely. You can still eat some of your favorite foods while making sure they’re as healthy as possible. 

Here are some ways you can eat your favorite fast foods more healthily:

  • Order your pizza with half the cheese.
  • Choose the regular-sized sandwich instead of the next size up. 
  • Opt for a baked potato instead of french fries

Simple decisions like that will go a long way toward letting you eat your favorite foods without the extra calories, sugars and fats. Keep in mind, though, that it’s always better to avoid fast food and opt for healthy dinner options for long-term health and wellness.

Keep Healthy Snacks on Hand

3. Keep Healthy Snacks on Hand

Cravings can strike at any place and at any time. You’re especially vulnerable if you skip a meal or feel particularly hungry during a late-night study session. Instead of heading to the local drive-thru or ordering delivery, give yourself a healthier snack to satisfy your hunger and curb your cravings. Here are some great options to get you started:

  • Pretzels
  • Dried or fresh fruits
  • Rice cakes
  • Unbuttered popcorn
  • Whole wheat crackers

If you have a dorm room mini-fridge, utilize it by keeping other fresh items on hand like hummus dip, yogurt and fresh vegetables. 

4. Eat Foods Rich in Calcium

Proper calcium intake is essential for college students. Studies show that individuals age 18-20 who get enough calcium can better fight bone conditions later in life, including osteoporosis. Eating foods like milk, cheese, low-fat yogurts and leafy greens will help you get a good amount of the essential calcium you need for strong bones. You can also try milk substitutes like almond milk and soy milk for some added calcium benefits. 

Also, be sure to spend plenty of time in the sunlight as well. Your body converts sunlight to vitamin D, which is an essential component in your body’s calcium absorption. Some dairy products contain added vitamin D for increased benefits. 

5. Set Aside Time for Meals

Above, you read that one of the top difficulties for eating healthy in college was the feeling that students had little or no time to eat. You may be busy during your time at college, but you must make it a top priority to set aside time for meals. 

There are several risks associated with skipping meals. Besides feeling sluggish and tired, you could end up with headaches and experience a slower metabolism. Even if you feel like your days are packed to the brim, try trimming some time from other activities to make sure you give yourself time for healthy, nutritious meals every day. Setting aside mealtime offers an excellent opportunity to take a break and socialize with your friends.

6. Keep an Eye on Sugar Intake

Sugar offers few health benefits for college students. In fact, health experts consider added sugar to be something you should avoid as much as possible if you want to stay healthy. Sugar is also bad for your teeth and can contribute to plaque buildup, tartar and cavities. 

The occasional treat is fine, but make sure you keep it in moderation. Generally, you’ll want to opt for meals and snacks low in added sugar to avoid additional sugar intake.

7. Visit the Salad Bar

Most college dining halls have a salad bar, and yours is definitely worth a visit. But when choosing what to put in your salad, make sure you pick healthy ingredients. Even a salad bar can contain items high in fat, salt and sugar. 

Construct your salad with leafy greens, fresh fruits and raw vegetables. A hard-boiled egg is also a great choice, but be sure to limit more unhealthy toppings like bacon bits. When it comes to dressings, avoid creamy, fat-filled dressings and instead go for the lighter options. A simple dressing of olive oil and balsamic vinegar can be a satisfying and exciting way to bring your salad together. 

8. Drink Water

It may seem obvious, but drinking plenty of water throughout the day is an essential part of a healthy diet. Healthy individuals should drink two or three cups of water per hour or more if they are sweating and engaging in physical activity. 

With so much to do and remember, many college students forget to keep up with their water intake. Try bringing a large water bottle with you to class, and keep it on your desk when you’re studying or doing homework to stay hydrated. 

9. Enjoy Your Meals

Food is a wonderful thing that brings friends and family together on a regular basis. If you take the time to sit down for a few minutes every day and enjoy your meals, you’ll have more of an interest in eating healthier and analyzing what you eat. When you can, take some time away from all the busyness and practice mindfulness as you eat. You’ll enjoy your food more, and over time you’ll start choosing healthier options for your meals. 

Make Time for Yourself

Make Time for Yourself

As you navigate the stresses and excitement of your college years, it’s easy to forget about your personal wellbeing. You’re so focused on turning in assignments, studying, working and trying to find time for friends that, in the hustle and bustle, you fail to give yourself “you” time. 

Eating healthy and making time for yourself go hand-in-hand — and sometimes, the two concepts overlap. When you make time for yourself, you’re investing in something you love doing to help balance out all the other responsibilities you manage. Here are some great examples of activities you can do to get in your necessary “you” time:

  • Go for a walk while listening to your favorite music or listen to the sounds of nature. 
  • Eat your lunch somewhere peaceful, like your favorite park bench on a nice day. 
  • Practice daily meditation, prayer or yoga. 
  • Give yourself some screen time, which can include watching your favorite movie, catching up on a TV show or playing a video game. 
  • Paint a picture, play an instrument or participate in another form of art. 

These are only a few possibilities, so be sure to discover your own version of what it means to make time for yourself. Doing so will help you both mentally and physically throughout your time at college. 

How American Dining Creations Can Help

It’s every college administrator’s duty to ensure that their student body gets the nutrients they need for healthy living. Healthy living is, in fact, one of the keys to helping students reach success and achieve their scholastic goals. If you want to help your student body eat healthier while enjoying what they eat, American Dining Creations is here to help. 

At American Dining Creations, we’re more than a food service provider — we’re a comprehensive service industry provider specializing in sectors including higher education dining solutions. We understand the great need for college students to have access to great-tasting and healthy foods. We put our knowledge to work with fun and exciting culinary concepts that will have your students looking forward to their next fresh, nutritious meal. 

We offer the following residential dining options for college students that will help take your college or university’s food offerings to the next level

  • Malt & Main: Malt & Main is a ’50s diner-inspired restaurant that offers a gastropub menu including fresh burgers, chicken tenders and hand-cut fries.
  • Boost Cafe: Give students the healthy breakfast they need with an offering of nutritious smoothies and grab-and-go breakfast sandwiches. 
  • Global Eatery: Diverse student bodies deserve diverse cuisine options, which is exactly what Global Eatery provides. 
  • Wich St. Deli: Your students will love enjoying the freshest sandwiches at their convenience. 
  • Cucina: With items like fresh-tossed pasta and pizzas, students can satisfy their Italian food cravings with fresh options from Cucina right on campus. 
  • Chef U: Let your students take charge of their own meals with the highly customizable and creative options at Chef U. 

Contact American Dining Creations Today

Trust American Dining Creations to provide your students with the healthy and delicious food they need to get them through the semester. With our experience in hospitality and our passion for culinary excellence, you can be sure that your students will get the fuel they need to stay positive and put forth their best efforts. 

Contact us online today for more information about how we can help. We look forward to serving you and your students!