How to Live Well At School: Tips & Tricks

I am having major post-graduation blues.

Being that time of year, it has totally hit me that I am not going back to school. Wow. In school, I couldn’t wait to be out. Out of school, I want back in. Funny how that works?

I guess I’m growing up and that means no more Staples-school-supply-shopping (the best), color coordinating my schedule, late-night library sessions and billion page essays… for now at least. Who knows, I do love to learn.

Rather than wallow in my post-graduation sadness, I thought it might be helpful to share some tips and tricks for staying fit, eating well and having fun during those college years.

These are many things that I found helpful while I was in my last two years of college; when I started implementing a healthier lifestyle.

Back to school

Make a game plan: It’s so important to stay organized in college: you get slammed with assignments, still want to go to frat parties and also want to exercise and eat healthy. I promise that you can do it all if you plan things out. I made a plan every week consisting of my workouts, my snacks/meals and my groceries in order to stay on track. [Here’s a great printable planner] Of course sometimes I would stray from this plan (that’s okay!) but it was a great way to stay motivated.

Grocery list sunday june 23

Get your groceries: Whether you are living on or off campus groceries are a great idea. You can store plenty of pantry items in your dorm room like oats, nuts, dried fruit, seeds, canned beans, nut butters, dark chocolate, trail mix and granola. If you have a mini fridge, stock up on almond milk, yogurt, cheese and your favorite fresh fruits and veggies.

Sundays were my grocery day! I grabbed my pull cart (yup the one the Grandma’s use) and trekked to Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods (when I was feeling particularly splurge-worthy).

Groceries

Successfully conquer the dreaded dining hall buffets: Oh the dining hall. My demise in freshman and sophomore year. Pasta, pizza, bread, bagels, ice-cream machine, Lucky Charm’s, dessert… yeah not ideal. Until going to college, I never had any of these foods readily available to me so I went a littleeee overboard. I did not have a meal plan in my last two years (I was living off campus) but I did frequent the dining hall with my basketball team.

I could write an entire post on the dining hall but here are a few things:

  • Veggie it up: Fill half of your plate with fresh vegetables. I’m sure you’ve heard this one before but it is seriously an awesome way to start your plate.
  • Survey the scene: Most dining halls have many “stations” so check out what looks good. I usually liked the stir fry station but more often than not I would simply ask the different station people for single items to add to my plate: chicken or turkey slices, tofu, beans, tuna or egg.
  • Get creative: The one advantage in having 3746736762375637 billion items of food is that there are so many different ways to eat them. I crushed chickpeas on whole wheat pita bread, topped it with hard boiled egg slices, cucumber, tomato, spinach and feta cheese crumbles. I also made my own chicken salads by using yogurt, celery, raisins and grapes. And a strange but good combo: cream cheese, orange marmalade, tuna on whole wheat pita bread.

Ask yourself…

  • Is the brownie worth it? Yes there are a plethora of treats but do they really taste good? If they do, go for it you deserve it. If you can take a pass then opt for something else.
  • Are you hungry for seconds? Buffets are tricky because there are so much food and you can keep getting more. You don’t need to “get your moneys worth” if you are satisfied after your first plate.

Dining hal

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Be active and walk everywhere: It was not until I graduated that I realized how fortunate I was to have access to a fitness center and gym amenities. When I was not in basketball season, I tried to get to the gym 5-6 days a week for about an hour each day. Sometimes that wasn’t realistic so I walked… a lot! Walking to class is a great start. Try taking the stairs rather than the elevator; walk to the grocery store; walk to the party; just WALK.

Walk

 

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Pack-a-snack: Or a whole day of meals! College schedules are certainly busy. While Dunkin Donuts and Burger King are convenient, they are not ideal for your waistline or wallet. Sometimes I was on campus from 7am until 10pm so I packed all my meals and snacks for the day. I packed nuts and dried fruit to snack on during class, single-serving yogurt containers, bananas, apples, baby carrots and lots of salads. Some energy bars are a good option too; just be cautious of the ingredients list and amount of sugar. Embrace tupperware… they will become your best friend.

Tupperware

Invest in an insulated lunch bag: Since you will be packing all this awesome food you want the cold to stay cold. I used [this one] and it kept things cold for a few hours.

Another cold tip! I covered chicken with frozen veggies… this kept the chicken cold and allowed the veggies to thaw by lunch.

Lunch bag

 

 

Pick and choose your alcoholic fun: I used to drink everyyyy time I went out. That’s a lot of alcohol… sorry liver. But then I started to scale back. Some nights I wouldn’t drink at all, some nights I’d have one drink and some nights I’d let loose. Pick and choose what works for you.

Pick and choose your alcohol: On a related note, 8 beers is probably not ideal. Opt for clear hard alcohol or a glass of wine. High sugar drinks tend to result in brutal hangovers so try chasing with flavored water. Light beer is another option. I am a big fan of the Skinnygirl cocktail line.

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Jello shots are my weakness… I made these for Halloween, with gummy bears inside!

Prepare healthy drunk snacks: If you’re like me, you get the drunk munchies. Mine are intense. When I knew I was going out, I prepared a good-for-me yet satisfying snack. It was ready for instant munching once I got home. Make sure your snack is satisfying to you! If you crave chocolate after a few shots then an apple certainly won’t cut it. Instead, pair a handful of chocolate chips with a few almonds. My go-to was banana and PB… with chocolate chips.

Banana andPB

Don’t stress: You’re going to have an “off” day. Maybe you couldn’t get to the gym or you did have 8 beers or you were not okay with a banana and PB so had a half a pizza. Breathe. It’s okay. You are striving for balance, not perfection.

got-balance

[Image source]

I hope this helps! Embrace your college years; it goes by much too quickly.

 

College friends: Do you find it challenging to maintain a healthy lifestyle while in college?

Post-college friends: What did you do in order to maintain a (mostly) healthy life in college?

 

 

 

37 thoughts on “How to Live Well At School: Tips & Tricks

  1. I was silly and worked full time and did full time university / college at the same time. Which meant I probably wasn’t the healthiest at the time always especially close to exam time as it was a matter of just getting stuff done in the time required and not actually worrying about cooking or prepping…oops!

  2. Aww I know what you mean about feeling all sorts of sentimental about this time of year. I’m not going back to school either, and I sure do miss it. Maybe I need to go buy myself a pack of pens or something to feel better ;)

    But these are all great tips for staying healthy! My biggest one would probably be taking some time off each week to do food prep and making sure to pack a lunch (or a day of eats) every day. I didn’t live on campus so I was usually able to eat a breakfast/dinner at home, but I still made a point to bring a lunch and snacks with me every day. Ooohhh and snacks! It’s important to always have healthy ones available so that you’re not reaching for the bad stuff when hunger strikes.

    1. Totally agree! I food prepped right after I brought my groceries home. I think I am going to implement “back-to-work” shopping for some highlighters and stickies hah

  3. Feeling you on wanting to return to university now that I’ve just graduated. It doesn’t feel ‘right’ – there’s something missing and I don’t really feel I’m ready for post-graduation life yet.
    Anyway, your tips are great and I agree making a plan is key. Even though you might not always be able to stick with it having a general idea of what you want and need to do, eat and buy is good.
    While the meal system is completely different over here [no buying meal plans/vouchers so no temptation to ‘get your money’s worth’] I packed my lunches and snacks, too. Just looking at the offerings at our cafeteria – think: vegetables cooked to mush as the healthiest option and greasy being the name of the game for most mains. I figure I did rather well bringing my own food even if eating out of a tupper seemed weird at times.
    All of that being said, though, I think you’re making the best point in recommending not to stress. Student life’s supposed to be fun, too.

  4. I’m sad about being done school too – it feels so weird to not be going back!

    I love all your tips here though. I started getting healthy in my 2nd year, when I started going to the gym for the first time. Having a free membership to the school gym made it so convenient! Also I cooked and packed most of my own food rather than buying it on campus. I did have weekly lunch dates with my friends, but we would always go to Subway or Pita Pit where we could get healthy options. I used to be a really big mindless eater in high school, but when I got healthy in university I learned to eat smart, portion controlled study snacks – like an apple and cheese served on a plate, rather than keeping an entire bag of potato chips on my desk haha.

  5. As a post-grad I’m not going to lie, I get the same exact feeling every fall still, especially when the weather starts changing. It was so hard to make healthy choices in college — healthy was ordering Diet Coke with my rum haha. Oh, how things have changed!

  6. You were right, our posts about this topic are pretty similar! Love your tip about the frozen veggies over chicken- genius! And I appreciate that you are realistic about drinking. I personally had no self control (in college) to not drink when I went out. If I wasn’t drinking, I was staying IN! One more thing: I 100% had the post college blues, too. I’m pretty sure graduation day was one of the saddest day of my life. After wallowing in my own sorrows for a year or 2, I’m finally starting to embrace this new time in my life. Have a fabulous thursday!

  7. These are great ideas! I definitely relied on my young-person metabolism when I was in college cause it seemed like I could eat/drink whatever I wanted. I was also a dancer so I was in the studio 5-6 days a week and walked a lot. The year AFTER graduation was when I really got that reality check that I’d have to work at being healthy!

  8. Oh the dining all always got the best of me. Like you, I never ate all of that junk when I was living at home with my parents, so when I got to university and the caf had OODLES of junk food, I kind of went over board. We would have pizza and chicken fingers for dinner, ice cream and cookies for dessert and a few hours later we’d drunk munch on wraps or schwarmas! It was madness. In my last two years I was living off campus so I got control of the situation and made an effort to eat A LOT better!

  9. I miss school too! I ate horribly when I was in college. Mainly because I was so busy that I basically didn’t eat. I could have used your tips back then (plus I look back on that and I think I’m crazy since I eat 10 times a day now)!

  10. This is all great advice! Going into my senior year, I’m just now facing the prospect of the “real world,” which is definitely unsettling. Like you, I’m definitely gonna miss the school supplies haha :)

  11. Some awesome tips, for sure! I still have one more year to go, but I’m in my final year of my MA program so I don’t have classes…so it feels like it only half counts. I would definitely say to take advantage of a free or cheap gym membership, if that’s included in tuition. And pick your battles when it comes to drinking – if it’s a special occasion where I really want to drink, I will, but if I’m not really feeling it than I won’t drink just for the sake of drinking. I’ll stick to one cocktail or glass of wine, or diet coke or water. And yesss on the drunk snacks – whenever I come home after a night out literally all I want is carbs. If I know I have some crackers and cream cheese or pretzels waiting for me at home, it’s easier to resist the boyfriend’s post-bar poutine habit ;-)

  12. Great tips, Amy! I have a lunch box just like your, except mine is adorned with a fun flower print! I don’t find it too hard to stay healthy while at school because I make it a priority. I would much prefer feeling good and avoiding getting sick over waking up with a headache the morning of an important test/assignment/presentation!

  13. Like you, my last two years in college were much healthier than my first two as I started to figure out what works for me. Waking up early and starting off at the gym always set the tone for the rest of the day. Getting tons of sleep and limiting eating out really helped, too! Also surrounding yourself with like-minded friends goes a long way : ) Great post!

  14. Aww, I miss school too! And I’m SO glad to hear someone else who used a “granny cart” to walk to the grocery store … I did that every Sunday while I was in Business School and people would make so much fun of me (in a playful way)! But it was SO worth it to have the food I wanted rather than relying on fast food/ take out all the time. These are great tips – I would just add that there are usually TONS of opportunities for fun exercise with groups (e.g. join a running group, grab a frisbee and head to the quad with some friends, play intramural sports, etc.)

  15. Though I’m not going back to school this year, these are some great tips that are useful for me even for work. Food preparation is a big one and I always keep healthy snacks in my desk drawer just in case I’m ever in a pinch. Bringing my lunch to work everyday is also crucial for eating healthy meals.

  16. Hahaha I laughed out loud when I read the healthy drunk snacks part! SO true. I got pizza late at night during under grad waaaay to many times! Now that I’m in grad school, I ALWAYS have healthy snacks on hand. My faves are apples, celery and almond butter, hummus and cucumbers, homemade bars and muffins. Thanks for the fab tips!

    1. Never woulda guessed you liked hummus (insert winky face here) haha I cannot tell you how many times I got pizza. When I was feeling “healthy” I would get the veggie slices.

  17. It’s my second summer not going back to school. Last year I was OK with that, but this summer definitely feels weird not to be in school. I had a meal plan my first year and actually ended up getting sick from all the carbs I was eating and then switched to just eating salads but then was always hungry which wasn’t good either and suffered vitamin deficiencies.because of this, during my second year I proposed a plan to my dad about getting a car to get to the grocery store so I could be healthy.the cost of the meal plan was so much and I definitely felt like it was a waste of money for me. So I got a car as a gift/meal plan trade and bought my own groceries and I think it was one of the best decisions I’ve made even though some of my friends didnt agree as they loved the buffet of greasy food in the dining hall. I was definitely healthier by bringing my own lunch each day and I spent less on groceries than a meal plan cost.

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