For most of us, college is the first opportunity to become independent in every aspect of life, from personal to professional and everything in between. However, with this freedom also comes responsibility and for many of us, this means finding a convenient meal without constantly relying on the ease of fast food. Even those with meal plans have trouble eating healthily because of a lack of variety and choices provided in dining halls. The old saying, “gaining the freshman fifteen” may not be your fault completely, but rather that of society and the college institution in which you are enrolled, so don’t let it happen to you. If you follow a few simple guidelines, gaining weight will be avoided even during those busy days when there seems to be barely enough time to eat, let alone worry about what you’re eating.

Understanding how the body digests food is important when attempting to understand how to cope with hunger while still maintaining proper portion control. Immediately after eating, your metabolism begins to break down the calories you ingested but soon drops off more and more as time passes. In order to continue this increased caloric burning power, space your meals out and make the portions smaller rather than eating until you can’t anymore; ideally 6 smaller meals per day. Including these small, square meals between classes will not only lead to a noticeable increase in energy but also less intense cravings to go “overboard” when you have some downtime.

Possibly the most practical recommendation is to learn some basics of cooking. In today’s day-and-age, learning how to cook is rather simple through recipes found on the internet, watching YouTube, or even the Food Network. Not only will this ability be a life-long, useful skill but it will also save you money as opposed to constantly going out to eat, a scenario in which food is always more expensive. For instance, take a day that you have free time and prepare chicken breasts, whole grain pasta, and some vegetables of your choice; more food than you’ll eat in a sitting. Save the food in Tupperware and this healthy meal can be quickly heated up during those busy days throughout the week. Over time, you’ll start to perfect your skills as you learn what foods are most satisfying.

Lastly, a simple yet important way to remain healthy is by staying active. Something as simple as jogging in the morning is a great way to get energized and start the day or joining an intramural sports team can keep you fit while you meet new people at the same time.  It’s not always easy to start a workout plan while simultaneously balancing college and a social life but if you stay dedicated, the benefits reach far beyond the physical results you will notice. Studies have shown that exercise is a great, natural way to fight off depression, anxiety, and stress so get off the couch and get moving!

These are some basic tips that, for those of you looking to start a healthy lifestyle in college. There’s no better time to start than the present so get together with some friends and you can all accomplish your physical goals and enjoy the mental benefits associated with exercise!

Justin is 22 years old and from outside of Pittsburgh, PA. He is currently a senior at Indiana University of Pennsylvania majoring in English/ Pre-Law with a minor in Economics. After graduation, he plans on taking a year off to prepare for law school while also achieving certification as a personal trainer. Throughout the duration of his life, he has been in love with sports and physical activities in general. The past few years he has been focusing on weight training and fitness and has fallen in love with the physical and mental demands that such activities require.