#1: “What Should College Students Eat?”- 5 Guidelines & Resources

In College 101, Exercise, Nutrition & Sleep, Thursday Q+A
college student eat

What should college students eat? Here’s how college students can avoid the freshman 15, be healthy, and maximize their performance.


Resources

Here are some blog posts and podcast episodes to help you get started eating healthy as a college student or college student-athlete:

Question:

What should college students and college student-athletes eat?

What Should College Students Eat?

How should college students and college athletes eat? Keep it simple.

Find and prepare meals that fit these 5 criteria: cheap, convenient, wholesome, portioned, and tasty.

Cheap

I don’t have to say it, but I will. If a college student is going to eat healthy consistently, the price has to be right.

Most of you can think of a much easier way to spend your limited resources than on groceries.

Do a Google search for budget grocery stores near you like Aldi, WinCo and Sprouts. Even the Walmart Supermarkets can sometimes have good deals.

A good target for any student-athlete is to keep your weekly grocery bill to $50 or less.

And if you show mom and dad you’re serious about eating on a budget, maybe they’ll spot you meal prep essentials like freezer bags, Tupperware, and some of your favorite snacks.

Convenient

College meal preps can’t take forever.

Aim for meals that will take you between 1-2 hours to prepare that can be eaten for 3-4 days.

Set a goal to cook 1 meal per day (hint: probably breakfast) and have already prepared meals/snacks ready to go for the others.

Things You Can Do Right Now:

  1. Get a crockpot.
  2. Have quality protein sources in your dorm available like tuna or whey protein.
  3. Order a box of quality snacks in bulk from Prime Pantry to keep in your dorm.

I highly recommend you look through this meal prep guide for preparing a week’s worth of healthy meals in 2 hours or less.

Wholesome

The answer to “What should college students eat?” summed up in 2 words: real food.

Shoot for 80% of your diet to come in the form of vegetables, lean meats, and fruits.

As a student or athlete, real food will help maximize your performance in class and on the field.

College athletes need to more carbohydrates than other people, so you may have to branch out from vegetables and lean meats to get enough in. Eat foods you know you do well with.

But how much food 80% of your daily intake?

About 3 square meals per day containing wholesome ingredients, and you’re good. Eat lean meats, vegetables, and fruit at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

If you do this, you won’t feel bad for eating other late night snacks.

portion control college

Portioned

No matter how healthy, convenient, or cheap your food is, portion sizes should always be a factor.

Eat too many calories and you will gain weight. Eat too few calories and you will squander performance on the field and in the classroom.

Calories matter.

Here are some resources to figure out how many calories college students should eat:

  • BMR Calculator– Your BMR is your Basal Metabolic Rate. This number will tell you how many calories your body burns at rest on a daily basis.
  • How many calories should athletes eat each day?– Useful information for college athletes that might help you wrap your head around eating 3,000+ calories each day.
  • The 3 Macronutrients Explained– Learn about the 3 macronutrients ( protein, carbohydrate, and fat), and how much the average college student needs.
  • MyMacros+ App– Use this app to track how many calories you are eating throughout the day. It’s a lot of work at first, but eventually you’ll know about how much food you need to meet your daily caloric intake.
  • MyFitnessPal– Similar to MyMacros+, but also has advanced journaling and intake tabs on the user interface.

Tasty

Food should taste good. Actually, food has to taste good.

You won’t be consistent with your healthy eating if you aren’t enjoying your food. So make it a priority.

How College Students Should Eat In The Dining Hall

Now many of you may be thinking, “Great, got it. But I eat at the dining hall and don’t prepare my food. Now what?

Tricky, sure. But still doable.

Guidelines you can easily follow for food you aren’t preparing yourself:

  1. Eat a plate full of wholesome 1-ingredient foods before you eat anything else.
  2. Quality protein sources will probably be the trickiest macro to find. Stay away from breaded or fried protein options altogether. If that’s the only protein source available, have canned tuna or a protein shake instead.
  3. Decide how much food you’ll eat before you get to the dining hall. Just because you can take unlimited plates doesn’t mean you have to. How hungry are you going in? What do you need to hit your macros?

Healthy Eating For College Students On Weekends 

You only get to be in college once. What should college students eat at 2am? Pizza. Sometimes.

Maybe wait until the offseason if you’re an athlete, but other than that, you’re going to be fine.

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