Healthy Eating in College

I’d like to start this post with a shout out to my cousin Andrew’s friends at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

I received this hysterical text from Andrew last night:

Say Whaaaaat!?

For anyone to say that my blog even comes close to Facebook in the minds of college students is one heck of a compliment.  As a former college student and previous Facebook addict, I felt very humbled and had to give these girls a shout out! :)

Andrew also told me that one of his friends had topic request that they would like to see covered on the blog: How to eat healthy in college.

Consider it done!

Healthy Eating in College

My interest in health and fitness began in college. I ate foods that I thought were healthy during my time at the University of Central Florida. My freshman year I had a meal plan, but after that my meals consisted of frozen entrees like Lean Cuisines and Lean Pockets.

These small meals wouldn’t fill me up and within a couple of hours I’d find myself snacking away on honey roasted peanuts, cereal or popcorn.

I once ate an entire box of Froot Loops in one day. (You should know that copious amounts of Froot Loops affect the colors of your bowels. My mom may or may not have received a panicked call from me due to this little discovery. Sorry for the grossness. Welcome to Peanut Butter Fingers! 😉 )

I now realize that if I had fueled my body with voluminous and nutritious foods like fruits and veggies and whole grains, I would have felt a lot more satisfied and not felt the need to snack my way through studying.

Of course I am by no means an expert, but knowing what I know now, here are my tips for healthy eating in college:

  • Invest in a mini fridge. Keep it stocked with healthy snacks you can reach for when hunger strikes. Apples, oranges, peanut butter, lean deli meats and string cheese are all wonderful options.
  • Take a lap around the dining hall before filling your plate. If you have a meal plan, make sure to take a lap around the dining hall to assess your options before piling a bunch of food on your plate. This way you’ll fill up your plate with the nutritious foods you want the most and not that hard roll or dry slab of meat that looked only somewhat appealing.
  • Make fruits and veggies 50 percent. When plating your lunch or dinner at a dining hall, allow fruits and vegetables to take up 50 percent of the space on your plate. Fill the other 50 percent evenly between whole grains and lean protein.

Healthy Plate

  • Beware of the salad bar. Salad bars are wonderful for those hoping to take in a nutritious meal… That is until you pile on gobs of dressing. Enjoy the salad bar but select lighter dressing like olive oil and vinegar or a balsamic vinaigrette rather than dressings full of saturated fat.
  • Drinks add up. Shots. Lemon drops. Margaritas. They add up. Of course alcohol enjoyed in moderation can be part of a healthy lifestyle, but many college students hit the bars night in and night out, downing drink after drink and then wonder why the pounds start to pack on when they eat healthy otherwise. Hmmm…
  • Make like-minded friends. Working out and eating healthy is much more fun when your friends are on board as well. Suggest trying out a new local healthy restaurant with your friends and share your latest healthy snack discoveries with each other.

I also want to add that to me, having a good time and livin’ it up with friends is a huge part of living a balanced and healthy life during college.

Though I’ve always had an interest in healthy living, that didn’t stop me from making a couple of 2 a.m. trips to Taco Bell with friends at the end of a long night.

I had one heck of a good time downing my fair share of adult beverages… Once I turned 21, of course. 😉

Eat healthy and get movin’… but take time to have fun, too!

Sip, Sip



Hi Ryan!

What's In That Big Gulp?

If you are in college:

  • What is your biggest challenge with living a healthy lifestyle?

If your college years are behind you:

  • Were you healthy in college?
  • What are your healthy living tips for college students?


  1. Kaitlyn says

    I’m in college and I read your blog every day!! :) My biggest challenge is having the time to make meals/having enough money. However, I have greatly improved in eating just from reading your blog. I discovered that you don’t have to take 2 hours to make a good healthy meal… So thanks! :) And just so you know, your blog inspired me enough to sign up for my first 5K this November!


  2. land animal says

    Making fruit and veggies 50% is a great goal for healthy eating for any of us! I am going to go reassess everything I ate today to see how I size up. I think I probably did really good today though. I had been eating like all pasta and this morning I was like OK, enough!

    Great post!


  3. says

    Once I got out of the dorm/meal plan I was healthy! I learned to cook healthy meals and started walking to campus rather than driving! I would walk everywhere, it really paid off! I agree also with have friends who share in eating right and working out!


  4. AshleyCarole says

    I LOVED the UNCW shout-out! I went there for my undergrad! I was extremely unhealthy for my first two years of college but started eating healthy and working out my Junior and Senior year. My tips for college are walk everywhere! It sneaks a bit of cardio in without you realizing it! Also, take advantage of the free gym classes! I loved the AB classes the best, I still use some of the move I learned!!


  5. Ger says

    Is anyone healthy in college? I actually think I was in denial about my weight gain. I wore dresses a lot so i wouldn’t have to face the fact that my jeans were getting waaaay too tight. the best times at college were all food and drink centred – that seems to explain it all really :-) And there is no bigger diet de-railer than post drinking munchies.


  6. Megan says

    I can definitely identify with those college ladies! Facebook has been having server issues and has been down off and on for the past two days and when i try and take a break at work all i could think was thank god pbfingers isnt down too or id actually have to be productive all day!


  7. says

    Thanks for the great post! I’ve now lost 55 pounds, and I lost 50 of them while in college (I graduated last year). It’s definitely possible to stay–or get!–healthy in college and still have fun. My advice? Learn to speak up for yourself! If you’re heading out to dinner with friends, pick a place that looks like it has some healthy options, and suggest it. In the dining halls or at restaurants, make special requests (butter/sauce on the side; dry grilled; steamed, not fried)–always with a smile and a please! :) If you care about YOU and make health a priority, you can do it!


  8. says

    The biggest challenge for me is my busy schedule! Between interning and school, I’m running around like crazy. And if I stay up late to finish work, I wind up eating a late night fourth meal!


  9. candi says

    Haha! Did you know that black icing has a Smurf-like side effect? Our sorority house bathroom was pretty comical after that mock rush party.


  10. Lise says

    I’m actually in college now and I’m really struggling! I am restricting a lot and avoiding carbs like crazy. I don’t feel satisfied often after my meals, and usually end up eating a lot of veggies with a little bit of tofu, or an egg. Do you have any tips for getting out of disordered eating habits?


  11. says

    I am currently in college and I have my own apartment, which makes it easier to eat healthy ;). I’ve just started this month and what I find hard is finding time for exercise. I was going to the gym before school last year but now my classes are too early (and the gym opens to late)! I try to exercise at home with body-weight exercises and yoga – and I walk a lot ;).
    I was in a dorm last year but we didn’t have meals included so I mostly ate simple salads, bagels, smoothies and lots of takeout!


  12. Ashley says

    I thought I was healthy in college, but now that it’s all behind me I can see that I had major issues with food. I gained the freshmen 15 and completely overcompensated the next year by cutting back a TON.
    I thought that staying within my self-imposed calorie limit meant that I was being “good”…nevermind that my diet was comprised of Lean Cuisine, Special K, and 100-calorie packs. I had the occasional salad, but didn’t ever put a lot of dressing on it because I only liked ranch and knew it was fattening. Bowls of basically plain iceberg lettuce and not-so-ripe tomatoes? Ick.
    Lord knows I made up for all of those calories that I “saved” on most nights of the week (Thurs-Sun) by drinking. Vodka cranberries were my drink of choice, and I shudder to think of all of the sugar I took in on nights I pounded 6-7 of those babies.

    My tips are thus:
    *All-you-can-eat does NOT MEAN you should eat all that you can eat at every meal. I worked in the kitchen, and can attest that dining commons food is notoriously fattening. (If your school posts calorie counts, count on the number being much lower than it actually is.) Stick to the 1/4 protein, 1/4 carbs, 1/2 veg guideline when building plates.
    *If your dining hall isn’t big on offering veggies, fill out a comment card and talk to the director. If you have a special dietary need (veg*n, gluten-free, etc.), talk to the director. They are there to work with you and will help!
    *Just because cookies, cakes, ice cream and pastries are offered at every meal does not mean you should have them every time. Have fruit after lunch and a cookie after dinner.
    *A shot and diet soda is about 100 calories and much better for you than Long Islands, my precious vodka crans, and any of the “special” drinks the bar is famous for.

    TL;DR – MODERATION in everything you do. Want pizza and fries for dinner? Don’t go out to the bar and have 8 fruity drinks, followed by late-night tacos. :)


  13. says

    I’m currently a senior in college right now and my biggest challenge with living a healthy lifestyle is trying to find time for workouts.

    I work and go to classes Monday through Fri and my weekends are my days off, but I’m always doing something (e.g.; studying, family/friend events, volunteering). So, yah it’s kind of hard, but I’m realizing that I have to sacrifice certain things like waking up earlier in the morning to exercise before classes. It helps and it wakes me up! Plus, bringing my lunch saves me SOO much money!


  14. Jenna says

    In college I really tried to LOOK at the foods everyone else was eating. Mostly likely they were rather ordinary & not so appealing fried foods or things I could get anytime I wanted. I treat myself when I’m really craving, when it’s a special occasion or when something just looks too good/different to pass up!


  15. says

    Ha honestly I need Healthy and CHEAP Ideas seriously! Even reading all of this stuff, I still need ideas! Basically I have the 100% whole wheat thing down. When I make pasta (which is basically all I eat, which is bad) It usually has zucchini, mushrooms and broccoli in it. Breakfast will be oatmeal with some peanut butter ( yum!) and a banana.

    If I had my blender ( I left it at my parents house) and protein powder (also at parents house…) I would make green monsters which I adore!

    I am just afraid of spending too much on groceries to buy much more than that! Any suggestions?


  16. Kaella Carr says

    I LOVE this post!! I went to college from seven years ago and was living in dorms with three roomates. The rooms all had their own kitchens, but I was taking my journliams program and found myself at school 12-14 hours a day (minimum!) I was always tired and sluggish, but I associated that with how busy I was…not with the fact I wasn’t eating the right foods (think vending machines, fries, pizza etc!) I didn’t drink (not a huge fan still today) but the food and lack of exercise helped me gain 30 pounds!!! I graduated and was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease six months later. I lost fifty pounds because of that, but I have never felt better (despite the Chronic Condition.) I workout, take dance classes for fun twice a week, eat healthy and save money for bringing my own food to work. I also now it’s important to treat yourself ( I LOVE that you include this in many of your posts!!) and am a sucker for 1) cookies 2) chips (i try and go for baked now) 3) C-A-N-D-Y! Have a great day Julie!!


  17. Caitlin says

    My college had fabulously healthy (and even special vegan) dining options, a huge, free gym, and a walkable campus and city. We had our fair share of drinking and late night eating (even our dining commons have something called “Late Night” meals), but the largely healthy lifestyle of the populace and focus on healthy food choices in the dining commons made it easy to stay in shape. I actually tried tofu, cauliflower, and grapefruit (ew) for the first time at the dining halls.

    Plus, to be honest, I think a lot of students at my school are too neurotic to be unhealthy.


  18. Julia says

    I’m a junior in college now and am happy to report that I have not gained a single pound since high school. I actually weigh less than I did then. How I keep it up? I exercise 6 days a week, I limit myself to one night out a week and them I usually drink vodka in diet soda, and I keep in mind that all of the unhealthy food on campus will still be there next Friday, when treat day comes around again.


  19. Kate says

    Thank you so so much for posting this! I just recently stumbled upon your blog; it is so inspirational and relatable! I am a college junior who is, for the first time EVER, trying to incorporate healthy eating and fitness into my lifestyle. So far, I cannot get over how amazing I feel! =) thanks for all the recipes and tips (and all the photos of you and your adorable little family) =)


  20. Carolyn Mackley says

    I LOVE your blog!! You are too sweet/cute/funny/amazing/beautiful, etc!! 😀 I just started my first semester in college and luckly for me I was able to get out of the ‘required’ dining plan. I have my own (TEENIE TINY, but awesome) apartment that I am able to make my own healthy, yummy meals. Thank goodness!! It’s so sad to me to see all the kids that show up with Pop-Tarts or Honeybuns as their ‘hearty’ breakfast. Lol. I’ve learned alot about nutrition and what my body needs in my recovery from an eating disorder, and I’m glad to say I am LIGHTYEARS better than I was a year ago. Seeing a blog like yours that emphasizes not only healthy eating, but actually fueling your body for the amazing things you do it awesome to me. :) You are incredible and an inspiration. I just wanted you to know that you have a BIG fan down here in New Mexico. Congratulations on your wedding!!
    Sincerely, Carolyn


  21. Laundry Bag · says

    outdoor sports is way better than indoor sports, i burn several hundreds of calories just playing a few hours of football ~


  22. Sectional Garage says

    healthy eating should be our top priority since there are many junk foods and foods with no nutritional value these days ,,,


  23. Katie says

    I just read this page after looking at your recent update this morning on Kix! I must admit the times I visit your blog daily is almost getting up there with Facebook & trust me that’s a lot! :)


  24. Jazmine @ Gracefully Glutenless says

    im so happy i found this! im going to college in two years and im soo scared of what’s going to be available for me to eat.
    thanks so much! :)


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  26. says

    I love this post! I am currently a sophomore in college living off campus and the hardest challenge for me is buying healthy foods. They sometimes costs more than the unhealthy stuff which is sad in our world because everyone should be able to afford to eat healthy.


  27. Megan says

    this is such a helpful post!

    I am going into my senior year of college! I live in an apartment close to campus so it helps to walk to class / around campus and buy groceries/cook and prepare meals ahead of time!

    I LOVE meals at Panera & McAlister’s Deli and places like that – so I try to model my quick & healthy lunches and dinner after those – I’ll pre-make 1/2 a salad or 1/2 a sandwich or some soup. I also make whole wheat pasta w just marinara for dinner with 1/2 a salad a LOT – easy and cheap!

    I wasn’t such a healthy eater when I started college, I used to skip breakfast AND lunch in high school and pig out on snacks after school… I used to dance so I got some exercise!

    In college, I brought those unhealthy habits with me and ended up going to therapy for an eating disorder!

    After that though, I went the opposite direction and started eating pizza, Taco Bell, drinking with my boyfriend and friends! I gained the dreaded “Freshman 15″ and then 10 more lbs! I’m working on shedding that before my senior year starts this fall, but most of all, I’m just grateful to be learning how to eat consistent healthy meals and exercise reasonably. Learning how to be healthy is freedom!



  28. Krista says

    Not drinking is so hard!

    For the first two years me and my friends drank every weekend and even sometimes during the week. And of course, stopping at whataburger at 2am was routine. Not to mention when i wasnt drinking my diet was pretty much ramen, pizza, taco bell or sometimes stuff i thought was healthy like frozen meals.

    Me and my friends have calmed down on the drinking and I’ve started to settle down with a boyfriend but when it comes to the weekend drinking is still the social event.

    I feel like not drinking ruins the social experience. And that being social is making it so much harder for me to lose these last few pounds. (I’m losing the freshman 15 but decided i might even go a little further and get even more fit than i was in high school!)

    But I am trying!!!


  29. Zoe says

    I’m just starting my junior year at Johns Hopkins University and determined to make great choices. I was lucky enough that last year I had a kitchenette in my dorm and omelets and oatmeal became my staples! I would recommend hard boiling eggs to snack on later. Though I don’t have an aversion to the yolks like some people I know.


  30. Michelle says

    I was health conscious coming into college, and had a meal plan my first two years. Even though I was still eating healthy, I was also late night drinking 2-3 times a week, and eating late at night after that. I only gained 5 lbs my fresh year vs 15, but that was from going to the gym, taking classes at the gym playing rugby, and walking everywhere. The problem was, even though I was eating healthy, I’d be eating way bigger portions than I would if I made meals at myself in a kitchen. Id eat hummus, but instead of 2 tablespoons, it was probably closer to half a cup that I was eating! As far as salads, I’d use the croutons and dressings and felt I needed to add everything to my salad, just because the toppings were available. I also fell victim to grabbing dessert every night, either because it was there or all my friends were eating it. Once I moved off campus my junior year, I was able to shop for groceries and cook my own meals. I ended up losing 15 lbs that year, because my portion sizes were reduced, I kept up my healthy editing habits, and most importantly kept up the exercise. I graduated college this spring, and my drinking has decreased significantly. I am currently at my lowest weight and feel great! Sometimes I regret not going all out in college in the dining hall and trying all the foods presented, but I probably wouldn’t be where I am today, the healthiest I’ve ever been!


  31. Abbey says

    I am a freshman right now at Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington, NC and living in an off campus apartment until I can move onto campus at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington in January for the spring semester. I have been really good about eating healthy since I have my own kitchen and fridge/freezer but I am nervous about moving onto campus and how I am going to be able to keep up my healthy eating. I am use to using my rice cooker to make my brown rice and cooking my whole wheat pasta, my chicken/shrimp, and other stuff on the stove so I am anxious about transiting from having a kitchen to being in a dorm setting.


  32. Jordan says

    I am 21, still attending college, about to graduate! And live in an apartment now, here are some of my tips that I wish I had known or followed!
    -Don’t buy your own fruit! Take an extra banana, orange or whatever you want from the salad bar and have it later on. No use wasting money!
    -Take a workout class at school. It’s a grade so you have to go, and you get a workout in!
    -Hangout with friends that share your love for healthy food. It’s hard enough eating healthy without someone eating pizza infront of you.


  33. Tammy says

    Great tips! I was just wondering if you could recommend any particular pre-packaged snacks that could be bought in the university convenient store. They have a pretty big selection of protein bars and snacks like that, but I am a little apprehensive about protein so I ususally stay away from those. They also have things like Luna bars, Cliff bars, and other similar snacks.


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  35. Jessica says

    I am currently in college and I think my biggest challenge with living a healthy lifestyle is mainly just disciplining myself. My schedule allows plenty of time to hit the gym on campus, and since I commute to school, I always pack healthy snacks/lunches. My best friend and I are both major gym rats ( so its easy to say that she is my motivation!). But unfortunately , I do have this mentality that I can eat whatever I want (since I went to the gym). And sometimes I just don’t care and I eat anyways. Lol. So … I am trying this whole idea of “portion control” so I can indulge in a smart way. Wish me luck !!


  36. Rachel says

    I am a college freshman and found that it is definitely a challenge to eat healthy with a meal plan! As a freshman I am required to eat 15 of my meals in the Dining Center each week, and the all-you-can-eat style is so dangerous! I can tell that I already gained a bit of weight, and so am trying to crack down and be healthy. I stopped getting dessert from the dining center, saving it for special nights out, and am avoiding the greasy burgers, fries, and pizza.

    My biggest struggle is with food addiction and self-discipline! I know that it IS possible to achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle, but you have to really want it! I’m still looking for those friends who want to eat healthy, modest portions like I do. Its hard but I know that it is worth it.



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