Eating Healthy (And Cheap) In College

Eating Healthy (And Cheap) In College
  • Opening Intro -

    The bad news is that the “freshman 15” is real — college students tend to gain weight their first year away from home.

    The good news is that most freshmen do not tilt the scale quite that much.

    The better news is that the freshman 15 is completely avoidable.


The average college student gains 5 to 7 pounds in his or her first year, according to the Obesity Action Coalition, and puts on another 2 to 3 pounds during sophomore year. While gaining a little weight is not necessarily harmful for a healthy young person, it can eventually lead to lifelong weight gain and even obesity.

Weight gain in college has several root causes, including:

  • Late-night eating
  • Choosing unhealthy cafeteria food
  • Keeping unhealthy food and snacks in the dorm room
  • Drinking large amounts of alcohol
  • Energy drinks
  • Coupons and offers for cheap food
  • Convenience of fast food delivery to dorm rooms
  • Skipping meals
  • Lack of exercise
  • Sleep deprivation from long hours of studying
  • Poor sleep habits

When most young adults venture to college, they enjoy the opportunity to break away from family routines and establish their own independence. Without parents and elders around to guide and limit lifestyle choices, students are free to do what they want, hang out with whom they please, and eat or drink anything they desire.

While some students continue the healthy eating habits they learned at home, busy schedules and tight budgets throw most students off course when it comes to nutrition. This is even true for many student athletes.

Eating healthy on a tight budget is stressful, especially for a college student trying to focus on learning. Fortunately, there are many ways an undergrad can eat healthy foods without spending a lot of money.

Tips for Eating Healthy for Less While in College

Keep healthy snacks available. Stock dorm room refrigerators with fruit, string cheese, baby carrots, hummus and Greek yogurt.

Rethink the drink. Water is a free or low-cost alternative to sugary drinks and alcohol that often contain large amounts of calories but no real nutrition. Sugar-sweetened beverages and alcoholic drinks can also result in blood sugar spikes that can actually increase hunger. The body responds to a surge of sugar in the blood by releasing a large amount of insulin, which drops blood sugar levels quickly. Excess insulin may push blood sugar levels down too far to trigger strong feelings of hunger.

College Weight Gain

Ninety-five percent of all college students do not eat the recommended amount of five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day, according to a survey by Northwestern University.

Stay physically active

Six out of 10 students responding to the Northwestern University survey reported not getting the recommended amount of physical activity, with at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise three or more days a week, or 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week. Students can increase activity levels by walking or bicycling to class, going to the gym, or by participating in intramural sports.

A recent study links skipping meals with abdominal weight gain. Breakfast is especially important, in that it fuels the brain for better study habits and prevents snacking or overeating at lunch.

Be choosey at the campus dining halls. Hidden fats, sugars, additives and other ingredients can derail a healthy diet, contributing to weight gain and additional health problems. Unfortunately, prepared food from campus dining halls and cafeterias often contains these hidden ingredients.

Avoid the late nights

Establish an early-to-bed, early-to-rise sleep routine. According to results from a recent study by Northwestern Medicine, late sleepers consume 248 more calories each day, primarily at dinner and late night snacks. As a bonus, sleep is free!

Adopting just a few healthy, inexpensive eating habits can save a college student from the dreaded freshmen 15 without costing an arm and a leg.

Author Bio:
Bonnie Coberly is a Certified Health Counselor at Natural Horizons Wellness Centers. Bonnie and her team focus on helping coach their clients of all ages to make natural, healthier choices.


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Categories: College Living, Featured