Eating Wisely

When students enter college, their diets often deteriorate. There are many factors responsible for these changes - stress, sedentary lifestyle, changes in schedule due to study patterns, and changes in eating patterns in general. However, making smart nutritional choices can be very important for optimal well-being and academic performance. There are several actions that can be taken to ensure you are fulfilling all of your nutritional needs. Eating well requires some planning. Here are some basic tips:

  • Eat enough calories for the day. Calories are the amount of energy or fuel you get from each food you eat. There are general guidelines for how many calories you need to eat each day in order to maintain your current weight. Eat more calories than you need and you will gain weight. Eat fewer calories than you need and you will lose weight.

  • Eat a variety of types of food. Even the types and colors of different fruits and vegetables will help you maximize your nutrition daily overall.

  • Eat enough of the macronutrients that form the basis of your food. These are usually known as Protein, Carbohydrates and Fat. While you can find many opinions about how much of each category you need, the best general guidance is to eat about 15-20% (or more) of your calories from Protein, 15-(no more than) 30% of your calories from Fat, and 55-60% of your calories from Carbohydrates. Less fat is better for your health; some fat is essential for your health. Complex carbohydrates are good for you and should make up the majority of things you eat each day.

  • Simple carbohydrates, like candy, sugar, and corn syrup are non-nutritious. They are considered empty calories or junk food because while they are fuel and have calories, the calories are non-nutritious.

  • If you are eating enough variety of color and type of food and enough calories for your body and enough macronutrients then you will usually get enough micronutrients like vitamins and minerals.

  • Food is also categorized by types of things that you eat, for instance meat, dairy, grains, legumes, etc.

Better Eating Tips

  • Choose organic when you can so that you consume fewer chemicals and things used to process and store food that is non-organic.

  • Eat locally and seasonally for fresh fruits and vegetables.

  • Choose a lean cut of meat for protein.

  • Use less salt, sugar.

  • Cook or choose grilled or broiled meat or fish.

  • Avoid fried foods or cut down on how often you eat them.

  • Try to choose foods that have fewer ingredients if it comes packaged. For instance, avoid long lists of ingredients that include things like additives, preservatives, coloring, or things you don’t even know about.

  • Eat no less than twice a day. Eating more often is fine.

  • Eat fruit. Fruit is not only a healthy choice, but it makes for a convenient snack. It's always offered in Leo’s and Vital Vittles and requires virtually no prep.

  • Take advantage of dining hall options. Leo’s offers a variety of healthy options, including the salad/wrap bar, stir fry bar, and vegan and vegetarian options. Additionally, they provide calorie counts and other nutritional information to help you make smart choices. Aim for a colorful, balanced plate of nutrient-rich foods.

Hydration and Dehydration

It is generally recommended that you drink at least eight servings (8 ounces each) of water every day. This is in addition to any other beverages, like soda, sugary fruit juices, or coffee that you may drink. In fact, if you regularly consume caffeinated beverages (caffeine is found in regular coffee, many kinds of tea, and several sodas), you should drink more than eight glasses of water a day. This may seem excessive, but remember that your body can begin to suffer from dehydration before you even feel thirsty.

You should also surpass the eight-serving requirement if your body is losing water more rapidly than normal. This can occur when you exercise, perspire in excessive heat, are vomiting, or have diarrhea.

The most common symptoms of dehydration are thirst, fatigue, and an especially dark or bright yellow tinge to urine. Severe dehydration is potentially fatal, as it can lead your body to go into shock and shut down vital organs.

Warning signs of dehydration include:

  • dizziness or lightheadedness
  • muscle cramps
  • nausea
  • headache
  • dark urine
  • sudden fatigue
  • dry mouth and throat

Tips to remember when you exercise:

Replace Fluid Before, During, and After Workouts and Competition

  • Dehydration is a common problem resulting when an athlete fails to drink enough fluid to replace sweat lost through exercise.
  • By the time you are thirsty, you're already dehydrated.
  • Adequate fluid intake decreases fatigue and chance of injury.


  • Drink at least 8 oz. of fluid before sleeping in the evening and before exercise.
  • Drink 8 oz. of fluid first thing in the morning.
  • 2 hours before exercise drink at least 16 oz.
  • 1 hour before exercise drink at least 8 oz.
  • During long endurance exercise, e.g. marathon running, drink at least 4 to 8 oz. every 15-20 minutes.

Rehydrate after Exercise

  • After exercise drink at least 16 oz.
  • Optimally, drink a carbohydrate-electrolyte drink as soon as possible after training or competing.

101 Health and Wellness Tips for College Students View tips from the Rutgers site


  1. Learn proper portion size. To avoid eating too much of even the healthiest foods, keep track of how much you're eating. For most people, meat servings should be about the size of a deck of cards and other servings vary by the type of food.
  2. Vary your meals. When the cafeteria has your favorite foods daily it can be easy to return to those old favorites every day. Changing up your diet from day to day is an important part of good nutrition so take advantage of the variety of selections available to you.
  3. Eat breakfast. Start your day off right with a good meal when you get up. Whether you're rolling out of bed at noon or up at the crack of dawn for class, make sure you start your day with a balanced, healthy meal.
  4. Keep healthy snacks around. It's easy to eat healthy if you keep the Cheetos at bay and stock your dorm room with fruits and other healthy snacks. You'll be more likely to reach for these than junk food if you keep them nearby or in your backpack.
  5. Drink moderately. While college students are known for their partying, you can still have a good time without consuming all the calories that come along with binging on beer, plus you'll avoid the hangovers and other negative effects. Drink in moderation and you can have a good time without hurting your health.
  6. Don't fight stress by eating. It can be tempting to reach for a bag of chips or some cookies when you're stressed out about an impending exam. Eating won't help your stress go away, so avoid filling up on snacks. Try working out or taking a break instead.
  7. Drink water. Drinking enough water can help boost your concentration as well as keep you from overeating. Make sure to keep hydrated as you go through your day by bringing water with you.
  8. Limit sugary and caffeinated beverages. Beverages may not fill you up, but they sure can help fatten you up and have a detrimental effect on your overall health. You don't have to completely give up soda and coffee, but you should scale back in order to keep yourself in tip top shape.
  9. Try to eat fruits and veggies. Even if fruits and vegetables don't comprise some of your favorite foods, try to incorporate at least a few of them into your diet each day.
  10. Limit junk food. Junk food is fast and easy and many students end up eating a lot of it while they're on the run to class or to work. While a little fast food now and again won't really hurt you, make sure it doesn't become a habit.
  11. Make it convenient to eat right. Don't make it hard for yourself to eat right. Buy healthy foods and stock your fridge and room with them to ensure they're the first things at hand when you get hungry.
  12. Don't skip meals. With so much to do, it's easy to forgo eating to run off to class or the library. Don't skip meals. Set up foods you can eat on the run so you'll have the energy to keep going.
  13. Indulge every once in awhile. A little treat now and then is a great way to reward yourself for eating a healthy diet. Give yourself a break and indulge in a food you love but can't eat all the time.
  14. Take vitamins. If you feel like you aren't getting the nutrition you need from your diet, don't hesitate to supplement it with some multi-vitamins to stay healthy and illness free.
  15. Get help for eating disorders. While many groups focus on helping students lose weight, there are those who need help fighting eating disorders as well. If you are worried you have an eating disorder and want help, don't be afraid to reach out to campus resources for help