Healthy Meal Plan for College Students

lunch service station
Eating healthy in college can be difficult, but it's not impossible. (Image: senkaya/iStock/Getty Images)

Whether you cook in the dorm, pack lunches or hit the student cafeteria, a judicious eating plan is a must for staying healthy at college. The freedom to eat what you please may result in nutritional deficiencies or the typical “freshman 15” weight gain. Having a plan makes good nutrition automatic. Wherever you dine, eat regularly spaced meals, controlled portions and a variety of foods from all the food groups.

Protein Foods

high angle view of grilled cheese served on lettuce greens
Avoid weight gain by choosing low-fat protein foods such as fish, beans, soy-based veggie burgers, skinless chicken and lean beef and pork. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Your muscles and bones may still be growing, and dietary protein is vital to this process and to maintaining your cells. Avoid weight gain by choosing low-fat protein foods such as fish, beans, soy-based veggie burgers, skinless chicken and lean beef and pork. Hamburgers, hot dogs, peanut butter and fried entrees are higher in fat.

Grains

Meat and rice dish
Choose whole grains such as brown rice, whole-wheat breads and pastas, rye crackers, oatmeal and popcorn. (Image: Eising/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Grains have fiber that fills you up to aid in weight control and protein, iron and B vitamins to keep you healthy, according to the National Institutes of Health. Ready-to-eat cereals with low sugar are a college student's best friend, providing 100 percent of some nutrients to make up for shortfalls on busy days. Choose whole grains such as brown rice, whole-wheat breads and pastas, rye crackers, oatmeal and popcorn.

Dairy

Woman drinking milk, close-up, part of
Choose milk or substitute soy or rice beverages to get your calcium. (Image: Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Instead of caffeinated drinks, choose milk or substitute soy or rice beverages to get your calcium. Your body needs daily calcium throughout your lifetime, and dairy foods such as low-fat cheese and yogurt add protein as well as calcium. To maintain or lose weight, choose 1 percent or nonfat dairy products.

Vegetables

If you find it difficult to keep fresh vegetables on hand, buy frozen medleys or pack cans of 100 percent vegetable juice in your backpack. Raw vegetables make filling snacks for study time. You may be able to save part of your lunchtime salad or cut up carrots for later. Choose veggie pizza toppings for their vitamins, minerals and fiber.

Fruits

Woman eating apple
Vitamin-rich fruit in your diet is important to your attendance record. (Image: Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images)

Fresh, frozen, dried or canned fruits give you options for getting your daily vitamin C, which supports a healthy immune system. Vitamin-rich fruit in your diet is important to your attendance record, and the fiber content of apples, oranges, pears and other fruits helps you manage your weight.

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