Healthy habits can start in college, last forever

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Whether you’re a brand new freshman, transfer student, non-traditional or it’s your first time being editor-in-chief of a daily college newspaper, the first week of a new semester in college can be stressful and packed with challenges. Unfortunately it is also a crucial point in the rest of your entire life. The choices you make in college become your habits, which can stick with you long after you’ve graduated. In the midst of organizing classes and moving in, healthy eating can fall by the wayside. In order to stay focused and on top of your game, use these tips to help start a healthier lifestyle that will benefit you from now on.

1. Think ahead and prepare yourself
Fast food can hit the spot every once in a while, but there are few greasy burger places that are delicious enough to want to eat at every day. For college students, or anyone who has a busy day, fast food is usually a last resort purchased when there isn’t time to do anything else. That’s a trap you don’t have to fall in. Within the starting days of college life you will get accustomed to how fast your day moves. If you can anticipate your break times and schedule some time to eat something of substance, you’ve already won half the battle. If you’re able to think ahead about when to eat, fast food becomes a choice and not a necessity.
Pack a lunch full of healthy and tasty options to travel with you as you tackle your day. It requires a bit of forethought, which can truly be difficult to produce after an all-nighter, but the earlier you begin to do it the more routine it will be. Building a dependence on fast food restaurants will be much more harmful than remembering to put that banana in your backpack.

2. Dispel the notion that healthy is hard
While it remains true that healthier food options are more expensive in grocery stores compared to their sugary counterparts, eating smart and healthy has nothing to do with extended effort. It may be easy to grab a cookie or a soda, but it can be just as simple to pick up the whole-grain muffin. The true challenge is mental. I’ll be the first to admit that I find myself going to restaurants all too often, simply because I like my food being brought to me. For many of us students, the idea of making our food daily seems like a bunch of extra work.
While that point may be valid, we won’t ever be able to take responsibility for our diets if we refuse to take ownership of what we eat. “Eating healthy is hard” is not an excuse, and it’s not even true. Taking time out to cook a meal basically ensures that it will be healthier than a dine-out option, and the process can be fun. Websites such as collegerecipes.com, and even the Food Network website, are packed with information on how to make a meal on a budget with little preperation time.

3. Find options that appeal to your taste
I don’t like the taste of most vegetables. Maybe it’s a childhood quirk that I never outgrew. V8 is the solution to my problem. V8 can be expensive, up to $3 for three eight-ounce servings, but it is a way to avoid having to put myself through conquering taste aversion just to eat healthy. Eating healthy can completely consist of eating things that taste good to you, if you’re willing to try new foods and branch out your palette.
In the same way there are alternatives to food you already eat that may make healthier substitutes. Gluten-free and soy options are not just limited to those whose body can’t process certain foods. Healthy and easily available alternatives may strike your taste buds in a way that mainstream fatty foods can’t. You might even be able to save a bit of cash. Silk soy milk is $3 for 32 ounces.

4. Snack often
It’s weird to think that constantly eating can make you feel better, but that’s how the metabolism works. The whole “three-meals-a-day” plan is an alright standard, but you can really kick your metabolism into gear by constantly giving it something to do. This doesn’t, of course, mean eating a slice of cake every 30 minutes and calling it healthy. Granola bars, fruits, nuts and grains are quick travel snacks that will benefit your body after just a few days of eating.
If you want to get even fancier, there are name brand versions of these snacks that provide extra benefits. Some of my friends swear by the boosts of energy provided to them by Clif Bars. Craisins and pomegranate berries are also new trends that are catching on in the health world.

5. Don’t do it alone
This tip is true of essentially anything in college. Your homework, your laundry and your eating habits get more entertaining and easier when you do it with others. The proper motivation and encouragement can be the difference between sticking to your diet or slacking off. This same tip also works in reverse. If there are people you’re meeting on your first days of college that do nothing but eat out, it’s probably best not to make many dinner plans with them. It will cost you a ton of money, as well as your figure.

No matter what you choose to do in college, being active and healthy for it is a must. Even if you aren’t a college student and you’re just trying to get healthy, none of these tips will work long term if you don’t start early and keep to it. Before long you’ll be packing your healthy lunch like a champ and your friends and family will wonder how you do it.

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