How to Maintain a Balanced Diet as a College Student

By Mia Barnes – February 1, 2023

As a college student, walking into a dining hall with endless possibilities can be overwhelming. One meal swipe allows you to pile up your options till you can’t eat anymore. But having a meal plan doesn’t have to lead to mindless eating and potentially the typical “Freshman 15.” 

You can use the food and resources to your advantage with the right mindset. Here is how to maintain a balanced diet as a college student eating at the dining hall.

1. Understand What a Balanced Diet Is

A healthy meal balances macronutrients such as protein, fats and carbohydrates with micronutrients, which are the vitamins and minerals your body needs. You’ll want to ensure you eat various food with these elements at each meal.

Some protein options include baked chicken, fish, turkey burgers, tofu, tuna and bean salad. You can pair it with whole grains like brown rice, wheat toast or oats. Make sure to add fruits and vegetables of some volume to keep you staying full throughout the day.

2. Know What’s in Your Food

Knowing precisely what’s in your food and how the dining hall prepares it is essential to a balanced diet. There can be hidden oils and fats from how it’s cooked that you can’t see by just looking at the food. For example, you might not realize the school baked the grilled chicken in an extensive amount of olive oil, which can add many calories and fats.

Campus dining services are increasingly providing nutrition information for students looking to watch for nutrition information and ingredients. As a rule of thumb, you’ll want to avoid anything with heavy cream, butter, sugar or deep-fried.

3. Look at the Menu Beforehand

When you enter the dining hall, it can be overwhelming with all the sugary and fun options. Most dining halls offer cereals, desserts and pizza on hand at any time you stop by. It’s easy to get distracted by those foods instead of creating a balanced meal.

Textbook next to fruit.

Before you go to the dining hall, look at what they’re offering to eat that day. You can create a plan so the temptations of the other foods don’t get to you. Pick your favorite option on the menu and stick with it instead of sampling all the treats they offer.

4. Eat the Rainbow

Most people eat less than the recommended amount of daily fruits and vegetables. The best way to ensure you get the proper amount is by including a fruit or veggie in every meal. There are so many delicious options to choose from that provide you with the nutrients you need.

For breakfast, throw berries on top of your oatmeal. At lunch, eat your sandwich with a side of carrots and at dinner, pair your chicken with broccoli. There are so many options you can choose from to add color to your diet.

5. Drink More Water

Doctors recommend that the average male intake 15.5 cups of fluid a day and a woman intake 11.5 cups. Your body needs water to stay energized and hydrated, so carry around a reusable water bottle to fill up throughout campus all day.

Soda is available in dining halls, but it’s best to stay away from it most of the time. Replacing soda can save you from adding sugar and calories without any nutritional benefits. It can make you crash throughout the day, so if you want something with more flavor, try coffee or tea instead.

Enjoy Your Time at School

College is a short and exciting time of your life. You shouldn’t worry too much about what you eat and focus more on the memories and time you have on campus. Do your best to eat healthy most of the time, but don’t let it stop you from enjoying your life.

About the Author

Mia Barnes smiling.

Mia Barnes is a health and wellness writer and editor-in-chief at Body + Mind. She specifically enjoys writing about women’s fitness, as well as mental health-related topics. When she’s not writing, Barnes can usually be found reading poetry, taking a dance or cardio class, or hiking.


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