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How to Eat Healthy in a Dorm

author image Natalie Stein
Natalie Stein specializes in weight loss and sports nutrition. She is based in Los Angeles and is an assistant professor with the Program for Public Health at Michigan State University. Stein holds a master of science degree in nutrition and a master of public health degree from Michigan State University.
How to Eat Healthy in a Dorm
A college student looks through the glass doors of a freezer in the supermarket. Photo Credit danr13/iStock/Getty Images

Many college students gain weight once they leave home to live in a dorm, but you can avoid the dreaded “freshman15” by choosing healthy foods. Be wary of pitfalls such as all-you-can-eat cafeteria meals and late-night pizza parties. Plan your meals and opt for moderate portions, and you can stay nourished while preventing weight gain as you enjoy college life.

Have a Healthy Breakfast

Eating breakfast can provide energy to get you through the morning, help you meet your daily nutrient requirements and improve your focus when you attend classes. A healthy breakfast includes a high-protein food, a source of complex carbohydrates, a good source of vitamin C and some healthy fat. You can quickly grab a healthy breakfast in your dorm room if you store a box of unsweetened whole-grain cereal, some almonds, some oranges and a 1/2 gallon of milk in your room. Another option is to have a small whole-grain bagel with peanut butter and a grapefruit.

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Plan Your Supermarket Trips

Going to a grocery store once every one to two weeks gives you the opportunity to stock up on healthy foods so you are less likely to rely on junk food from campus convenience stores and residence hall vending machines. If you don't have a car, one of your friends or roommates may be willing to give you a ride to the supermarket, or you can take public transportation periodically. Make a list so you avoid making unhealthy impulse purchases. Store cold items in a small refrigerator in your dorm room, and keep the rest of your food on shelves or in your closet.

Store Healthy Options

To eat healthy in the dorm, store a range of nutrient-dense foods that have long shelf lives. Canned tuna, all-natural peanut butter and low-sodium bean soup are nonperishable items that provide protein, while fat-free yogurt, low-fat string cheese and lean turkey breast are high-protein options if your dorm room has a refrigerator. Good snacks for a dorm room are low-fat microwave popcorn, raisins and whole-wheat pretzels instead of potato chips and cookies. Baby carrots, apples and bananas can last for days in the refrigerator and are convenient choices to grab on your way to class.

Avoid Common Pitfalls

In the cafeteria, emphasize fresh foods, such as fruits, vegetables and lean proteins, while limiting low-nutrient options, such as french fries, pizza and desserts. Salad bars usually offer a range of fresh and healthy vegetables, fruits and lean proteins, such as tuna, hard-boiled egg whites and strips of grilled chicken breast. Because late-night dorm parties and study sessions can be opportunities for eating junk food, bring your own healthy snacks to avoid the temptation to eat high-calorie foods late at night. Make low-fat popcorn in your dorm room's microwave, or bring whole-wheat pretzels or tangerines to eat while you are socializing.

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