Back-To-School Nutrition For College Students

Pappas_BBetween managing new classes and making new friends, college is a whirlwind of new beginnings! This new chapter in your life involves newfound independence and responsibility. It can be easy to get caught up in your new environment, but staying healthy during this time can truly enhance your college experience.

Focusing on your health during college is more than just avoiding weight gain; wholesome nutrition and physical activity can improve your academic performance and well-being. Even if you didn’t follow the healthiest practices while in high school, college is a fresh start that you have full control over.

The cornerstones of good health in college are regular exercise, a well-balanced diet, and moderation. All of these concepts require planning ahead and prioritizing your health. Let’s break down these three concepts and explain how you can practically incorporate this into your daily routine.

Regular Exercise

Pappas_APhysical activity is an important part of maintaining your health and good nutrition. If there is one thing you can do to benefit your health while in college, it’s committing to a regular exercise program.

This doesn’t have to be a monotonous treadmill run every day; consider reaching out to your school’s club sports teams, or grabbing a friend to try the campus fitness classes. Find a form of exercise that you actually enjoy, and that can help you relieve any stress you may experience with your schoolwork. Commit to exercising 3-5 times/week to make an effective change and add structure to your week.

Well-Balanced Diet

Nutrition is imperative whether you are preparing your own food or eating at a dining hall. Let’s start with hydration; when you are running all over campus, it can be easy to neglect hydration. Most universities have refillable water bottle stations practically everywhere; keep a water-bottle with you to refill throughout the day. Pre-pack a few snacks in sandwich bags when you have a long day of classes ahead.

Smart food choices include unsalted trail mix, light popcorn, or even a fresh piece of fruit. Planning ahead will keep your hunger controlled during the day.

When planning your meals, focus on plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean sources of protein. Pick a breakfast that is rich in protein to keep you satiated during the day; this can include a Greek yogurt with fresh fruit, whole grain muffin with peanut butter, oatmeal with nuts and seeds, or even a few hardboiled eggs. For lunch and dinner, try to make half of your plate vegetables and then balance it out with a high-fiber starch and lean protein.


College is a great time to meet new people and enjoy your independence. Moderation is an ideal concept to remember at all times when in college. The dining hall has a plethora of food options that can make it easy to go overboard with; learn to indulge sensibly and don’t make that indulgence a daily habit. When you go out with friends, enjoy yourself, but always keep your health first. Be responsible and learn to balance studying, relaxation, and fun. Always take time for yourself, and allow your mind to reset and regroup.

These principles are a simple guide to living a healthy life in college. Many universities have a campus nutritionist who provides free counseling and community services to those on campus. Reach out to your campus nutritionist for practical guidance while you are adjusting to college life.

PappasHeadsotStefani Pappas, CPT, CWMS is a nutritionist pursuing a career as a registered dietitian. She is a personal trainer, Equinox fitness instructor and contributing writer for Elite Daily.

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Stefani Pappas Sassos
Long Island Weekly columnist Stefani Pappas, RDN, CPT, is a clinical dietitian at St. Francis Hospital. She also provides private and group nutrition counseling at her office in Great Neck. Visit Stef Health Tips for more information.

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