It's never too early to start thinking about your health when you go away to college.
It is easier than you think to make unhealthy choices, especially when you are surrounded by french fries and chicken fingers every day in the cafeteria. Make sure to leave high school prepared, and you will find it easier to make healthy decisions!
For every cup of coffee, drink a glass of water
Coffee and caffeine are inevitable parts of every college student’s routine – whether you are out late with friends or stuck in the library cramming for an exam, sometimes it feels nearly impossible to get enough sleep. And while coffee isn’t bad for you, it’s important not to let coffee replace water. Among its many benefits, such as aiding digestion and keeping your skin clear, water can also help you concentrate and remain alert, which will help you stay productive and keep tiredness at bay. Buy a reusable water bottle to carry in your backpack so that it will be easy to always stay hydrated.
Pack healthy snacks for long days
On certain busy days, I would leave my dorm room in the morning and spend the entire day on campus – going to class, working in the library, grabbing dinner with friends – and not return home until it was time to go to sleep. I needed fuel to keep me going, and that didn’t mean noshing on the readily-available sugary muffins or yogurt-covered pretzels from the cafeterias around campus. Instead, I found it important to make sure that I was frequently chomping on healthy snacks, such as an apple, yogurt, or a handful of nuts. Nutritious snacks (rather than the ever-tempting potato chips) actually did a better job of keeping my energy level constant and spared me the blood sugar crash that accompanies eating sugary treats. Fruit is especially great for when you need to eat on-the-go.
Sleep and exercise
In a perfect world, we’d wake up every morning before the sound of our alarms—fully rested, of course—and jumpstart our days with a good sweaty workout. In reality, we often experience an angst-filled battle between hitting the snooze button and hitting the treadmill. I spent a large part of college stressed about choosing between sleep and exercise until I realized how important it is to make time for both. During a particularly stressful week, I felt so much better unwinding at the gym but before a big test, I needed as much sleep as I could get. Giving your body what it needs most will ultimately help you feel your best. So don’t beat yourself up if you choose to catch up on sleep for a week rather than work on your 6-pack – both are important aspects of your overall health.
Wash your hands
Colds and viruses can spread through college campuses at a frightening rate – between sharing a room with a roommate, a bathroom with your suitemates, space in the library and pens in class, you come in contact with a lot of people every day. Washing your hands is an easy way to stay healthy, and being sick in college is no breeze – it means missing classes, having to catch up on work, and not being able to hang with your friends. Since you won’t always be able to use soap and running water – which the Center for Disease Control advises is the best method to prevent the spread of infection and illness – buy a couple of alcohol-based hand sanitizer bottles to store in your backpack and purse.
Though it may sometimes feel like you can’t spare a single minute to socialize, setting aside even just a half-hour to grab dinner with friends actually has some health benefits. First of all, social connectedness, which you won’t feel through a texting conversation, helps to increase happiness and alleviate feelings of depression or loneliness. Secondly, if you’re eating while sitting in front of your laptop or watching TV, you are more likely to overeat, since you will be less tuned in to your body’s hunger and fullness signals. So stepping away from your work to eat dinner with friends can benefit both your waistline and your mental health!