Healthy Tips for College Students

I recently had a reader contact me for ideas on eating healthy while in college. I know many young people struggle with this and since college is when I turned my health around, I thought this issue deserved a full blog post. Of course we all know the old freshman 15, the late nights of studying eating and drinking, the all-you-can-eat dining halls and busy schedules…

Go Mason!

So here’s my short cut guide to staying healthy while enjoying the college experience…

On-Campus Eating

  • Eat breakfast within an hour of waking up (even if it’s something small)
  • Skip the pizza and burgers at the dining hall and head to the salad bar. Load up on lots of greens, veggies and protein (beans, grilled chicken, hard boiled eggs, etc)
  • Choose grilled instead of fried, whole grains over refined grains and baked potatoes instead of fries
  • Skip the fast food spots like Burger King and Taco Bell and go to places that offer healthy options – sandwiches, soups and salads are great. You’ll probably be able to find whole grain breads, broth based soups and salads with plenty of vegetables
  • Skip the soda and juice drinks and go for water or unsweetened iced tea
  • Watch your portions at the dining hall
  • Make time for eating between classes


  • Bike or walk to class
  • Pack snacks to take with you to class so you won’t be starving afterwards
  • Carry a water bottle with you everywhere


  • Take the stairs
  • Visit the fitness center
  • Take some group fitness classes
  • Bring workout clothes with you (or wear them) to class so you can go workout before or after class
  • Join an outdoor adventure group
  • Join a club sports team
  • Take a fitness class as one of your courses
isaac and i.jpg
Oh, the college days!

Party Options

  • Go dancing (dancing was my favorite workout in college!)
  • Play games and involve moving instead of sitting
  • Drink in moderation and go for low cal options (light beer or vodka with soda water and lime juice). Alcohol is just empty calories and can lead to poor food choices. <– Not the best combo
  • Skip the fruity jungle juice at parties (do you guys even call it that anymore?) It’s usually super sweet and you can never tell how much alcohol you’re drinking with that stuff!

Keep healthy snacks in your dorm room or apartment:

  • Trail mix
  • Nuts
  • Dried fruit
  • Yogurt
  • Hummus and veggies (celery, carrots, cucumber and bell pepper are perfect to crunch on while studying)
  • Fruit
  • Popcorn
  • Nutrition bars (LARA and Pure bars are good options)
  • Cheese sticks
  • Cereal (Kashi Go Lean is my go-to cereal)
  • Nut butter
  • Oatmeal
  • Tuna
  • Soups

**Most of the things above you can probably buy with your dining card on-campus and bring them back to your room.

The biggest tip I have is NOT to worry yourself silly about eating healthy or go to extremes with it. College was the best time of my life and it’s because I lived it up, ate healthy and worked out but didn’t let that take over my life. Building relationships, hanging out with friends, figuring out who you are/what you want to do, and ENJOYING your new found freedom is what you should be doing, not spending all day counting calories.

Looking for more healthy living college tips? Check out the following links:

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  1. I was SO unhealthy during college – I think it boiled down to learning how to live and make healthy choices on my own! I started figuring things out by my junior year, and loved the smaller George Foreman grill – it made healthy sandwiches, chicken (when I used to eat meat) and other healthy meal options without a ton of oil and temptation of my all-you-can eat meal plan.

  2. I went to school for 7 years (including grad school), and it was so interesting to see the incorporation of more and more healthy foods in campus dining halls over that time period. It’s definitely easier to eat well than it used to be!

  3. I went to GMU, too! I also shaped up my diet while I was a freshman. I still think of the salad bars in the dining hall and how easy I found it to make good choices and eat well. You are right that students can eat healthy if they look for the right stuff.

  4. You nailed it.
    I have been out of university for quite some time, but still remember it well.
    The typical university temptations were not really there for me as I never
    lived in residence and never dined on cafeteria food. University for me was
    I time where I was very health focused (in a good way,).

  5. Thank you for these tips! As a college student I am still finding the balance of eating healthy and exercising while not letting it consume me or my time.

  6. These are great tips! I graduated from college 5 years ago, but actually lost 15-20 lbs in college and they’ve never even shown a hint of creeping back on. I was so terrified of gaining the freshman 15 that I cut most snacky processed junk foods out of my diet, started running/going to the (free) gym several times a week and made a concerted effort to eat more fruits and veggies. Basically, I finally took my nutritionist mom’s advice on eating healthy and exercising after spending my high-school years rebelling by wolfing down entire boxes of Cheez-its. Gross, I know. But yes, the things you mentioned totally do work, and there’s no reason college has to be full of fast food, pizza etc, when it can actually be the best time to turn your health habits around!

  7. Great tips! My downfall in school was the cafeteria breakfast burritos. I hate just about everything else so I ate far too many of those. It was amazing how fast the weight came off when I moved off campus!

  8. These are great tips for college students. It took me some time to figure them all out when I was an undergrad, but for the most part I think I did well. Our “rec center” was totally not worth my time (they had 2 — yes 2 — ellipticals, so it hardly counts as a ‘gym’!), and I should have just invested in a membership somewhere rather than stressing about it and flaking on workouts 🙂 Live and learn!

  9. I agree with all these tips! I pack snacks with me most days, as well as clothes to hit the gym after classes since most of my favorite group fitness classes are after my classes. I’m usually tired, but it feels great to get in a workout and get re-energized. I always eat breakfasts in my room and stock up on oatmeal & peanut butter.

  10. I am well past the college age, but I think these are great tips! I wish I had done more of this during school. It’s really a great way to set yourself up for an easier switch to post-college life since you’re already paying attention to healthy eating and an active lifestyle.

  11. Thank you, Brittany! This is my first time commenting, and I really appreciate this post because I’m a college freshman now! It’s great to get advice from people who have already done the whole college thing 😀

  12. Oh, the pizza. The endless pizza. I think that is one of the biggest killers of college kids’ waistlines. It was of mine!

  13. Brittany, you’re the coolest! Thanks for the link! I agree with all of your tips and am trying to practice them in my daily life! What a cute picture of you and Isaac in college. 🙂


  14. Although these are all great tips, I think your best suggestion is the last one. I got too caught up in being 100% totally healthy and ended up sacrificing valuable time with friends and experiences I can’t get back. Live it up!

  15. Great tips!
    As I look back on my college eating days… It’s a wonder I’m not dead.
    I believe I ate Burger King or Pizza Hut everyday for lunch for a full year… It was all that is in my building. Makes me sick thinking about it!

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