A few weeks ago, Lizzie, a blog reader, reached out to me after discovering that I live in the Baltimore area. She goes to school at a nearby university and was looking for advice on staying healthy as a college freshman. Though I now live at home, I did live on campus during my first semester at Towson University.
Because I lived in a building that was not owned by the university, I was not required to have a meal plan. I fully recognize that not having a meal plan is nearly impossible for the majority of college freshman; it was only feasible for me because my parents’ house is ten minutes away from campus. I often went home for dinner and cooked meals on Sunday to eat during the week. If I did eat on campus, I sought out healthy options, which are available on every campus. I could easily get grilled chicken with a side salad or a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread.
Limited access to a kitchen made it difficult at times, but wholesome meals came together with a little creativity. Between pledging a sorority, being a pre-pharmacy major, and having mostly 8am classes, I barely had time to get to a dining hall, anyway.
For breakfast—while simultaneously putting on mascara and furiously studying biology notecards—I would eat a bowl of cereal in under 30 seconds. I opted for a cereal with a high fiber content, usually one of the Kashi variety, and paired it with almond milk.
Luckily for me, my roommate was kind enough to let me have a larger share of the mini fridge in our dorm room. Keeping it stocked with healthy options was essential. You could typically find fresh produce, yogurt, string cheese, hard-boiled eggs, and hummus in my fridge, and bags of frozen veggies and pre-cooked meals in my freezer.
With a close proximity to Trader Joe’s, I often walked there when I needed to replenish my stock. I also had a large air-tight container in my room where I kept dry food. I bought it in bulk so that I wouldn’t need to replace those foods as frequently. I always had fruit, like bananas and apples, on hand, which was easy to eat alongside a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch.
I realize that it was quite a luxury to have access to my parents’ kitchen while I was living in a dorm, but being a college freshman does not mean that you have to succumb to the greasy-foods-for-breakfast-lunch-and-dinner mentality. Gaining weight in college is not inevitable—it’s preventable. Making healthy choices in the dining hall, splurging on occasion (who can resist soft-serve ice cream machines?), and making exercise part of your regular routine can help avoid the dreaded Freshman 15.
My favorite “dorm room foods” include:
- whole-grain cereals and breads
- dark chocolate
- dried fruit/fruit leathers
- snack bars (like Lara or Clif bars)
- almond milk
- peanut butter
- Greek yogurt
- string cheese
- steamable bags of veggies
- frozen fruit
If you are a college student, how do you make an effort to stay healthy while on campus?