College Nutrition and Wellness Survival Guide
By: Claudia I. Martinez
Revised by: Celina Paras MSc, RDN, LD.
College is a time where stress levels rise! A lack of sleep, time and proper nutrition can become an issue to energy levels! It’s time to start creating better habits, and there is no better time than the present to begin!
With busy class schedules, multiple assignments, and long work hours, eating a balanced meal may seem difficult. You may think that cooking takes too much time and therefore go for the quick solution of purchasing fast food on campus. If fast food is your go to, make sure you are choosing nutrient-rich choices. In other words, be cautious about creamy condiments, sugar-sweetened beverages and aim for quality side items like fruit cups or salads instead of French fries or chips.
If you are short for time, but want to eat at home to save dollars and calories, meal prepping is a great way to make sure you are meeting your daily nutrient requirements. Some good options for meals include something as simple as turkey wraps with veggies or overnight chia seed pudding. Purchase non-perishable snacks such as popcorn, almonds, or nut butter, in which you can pair with apples, bananas, or even celery.
Eating well can be difficult in itself, but including physical activity into your daily lifestyle adds even more of a challenge. However, it can definitely be done! The American Heart Association recommends a minimum of either 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity 5 days per week or 25 minutes of vigorous activity 3 days per week to maintain health. In addition, muscle strengthening activities are recommended at least 2 days per week. College recreation centers usually offer great group exercises classes that can definitely help you reach the recommended physical activity. Even if these recommendations seem to be too much, set goals and aim to reach them. An activity as simple as walking or riding your bike to your class can go a long way.
The recommended sleep duration for adults falls between 7 to 9 hours. With this in mind, it is best to avoid pulling all-nighters and instead make sure you are getting restful sleep. If you feel tired throughout the day, take a 20 minute power nap and get back into it. Exercising and eating well help with getting a good night’s rest.
The recommendation for fluid intake is to drink enough to keep your urine a pale yellow color. A great way to estimate this is to take your weight in pounds, divide in half and drink that many ounces. So, if you weigh 150 pounds, aim to drink at least 75 ounces of low to no calorie fluid a day. Then add 5-10 oz for every 20 minutes of exercise. Carrying a water bottle around and refilling it can help you make sure that you are drinking enough throughout the day. If you’re having trouble staying awake while studying for an exam or doing homework, drink cold water so your body doesn’t tire. As you drink more water, you will be forced to get up to go to the restroom, making sure you stay wide awake.
Remember! Eat nutrient-rich foods as often as you can, stay active, sleep enough and drink water. Make sure to set goals and do what works best for YOU. Setting reminders on your phone can help you with all of these things!