I think we all know that healthy eating is pretty easy to do in a home environment. Even if you work X number of hours a day usually that means all you have to do is pack a lunch and snacks (if you’re a snack addict like me) and you have the assurance that you can come home and prepare yourself a nice, nutritious meal. Same goes with breakfast.
I’ll probably be going to university next year and I was wondering – how the heck is healthy eating possible there. Let’s just say I live in the country where vegetarian is a REAL rarity, vegan is absolutely unknown. I have a vegetarian cousin who can’t eat at his school cafeteria – simply because there are NO vegetarian options. So the food choices available for me at a cafeteria would be, well let’s say less than my first choice. Of course I might be pleasantly surprised, but considering what I’ve seen and heard so far, not likely.
This of course is no big deal if you don’t live in a dorm. But living in one (which is what I’m planning on doing) presents a whole set of unique challenges. A communal kitchen, limited equipment and time were all very real concerns of mine. So I decided to ask someone who’s already been doing the “college” thing for quite some time, and he willingly obliged to share his experiences with me. I hope these answers will help those of you planning to go to college soon realize that just because you’re leaving home doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite foods. So without further ado, here’s what Daniel had to say on the topic.
Q: Was it hard for you to adjust to eating in a dorm surrounding as opposed to cooking at home?
The summer I first started college (right before entering) was the summer I became interested in cooking. The dorm life wasn’t too difficult to adjust to because our campus has a very extensive and wonderful dining hall, but as far as eating on my own in my own room it was pretty difficult at times. I’m a HUGE fan of frozen fruit – it’s basically the way I eat my fruit – and the fact that small dorm fridges have crappy freezers didn’t help. It really depends on where your dorm is / what kind of facilities are available and where they’re located. Having a crummy, run-down kitchen 5 stories below your room in the basement didn’t make cooking as enjoyable as it will be this year living in a suite with my own kitchen and bathroom.
Eventually you do adjust to it – you develop new tastes for food that’s more available (I ate apples – I really don’t like apples) and you work with it. I’m pretty sure you’ll do fine so long as you have an open mind and a taste for a wide variety of food!
Q: What are some staples of your “collage” diet?
I ate all of my breakfasts in my dorm. I lived off of overnight oats every single morning – with the exception of a hardboiled egg or some leftover cooked steel-cut oats/quinoa,etc. – so I would recommend oats / yogurt / milk / toppings for your oats. I had a LOT of stuff in my dorm: nuts, grains, dried fruit, bananas (took them from the campus dining hall, along with apples and oranges,) leafy greens and carrots and a few other snack like things. Also, do NOT feel afraid to get canned beans / boxed whole wheat crackers (such as AkMaks or RyeKrisp) – I know it feels better to make your own but sometimes you just don’t have the time and that’s ok. I did choose to make my own hummus – so I always had hummus and avocado on hand.
Basically breakfast stuff, snacks to have on hand when you need a pick me up, and salad/sandwich fixings.
Q: Do you eat all your meals at a cafeteria – or are you able to cook your own?
Lunch and dinner were usually at the dining hall, breakfast was always in my room. I did cook lunch / dinner for myself here and there when I had time or I didn’t like what was being served at the dining hall.
Q: Do you manage to snack in between classes, or are things too hectic for that. If so, what snacks do you usually pack with you?
Ah, snacks. I’m not too great at this. I snack in between / during classes – if you’re running on empty your performance will fall and it’s better to make time or feel “out of place” snacking than it is to go hungry. Fruit, crackers, nuts, mini salads, small sandwiches, hummus and veggies – stuff like that.
Q: Do your friends or roommates (if you have any) think you’re strange for eating the way you do? Have you felt the need to defend the way you eat in front of them?
My roommate was a friend from high school so he was used to me. I don’t really feel the need to defend myself for how I eat – if they give me weird looks or ask about something I just explain things as nicely as possible. It wasn’t really difficult and anyone who claims to be your friend will be more than accepting of your lifestyle.
Q: How do you manage to find time to prepare your meals in between studying/attending classes/having a social life.
Erm…I was bad at this, but I’m getting better. I spend way too much time studying and meal planning was something that took a lot out of me. If you can, try to get together with friends to do dinners or lunches – I usually had a few days a week where I didn’t work or have homework and I would go to dinner with my friends. Just remember what’s important to you, don’t worry about trying to have a perfect diet (which doesn’t exist anyways!) and focus on your studies as best as possible.
Also, I would cook things that took a bit of time – grains that took 40 minutes to boil, veggies that take 40 minutes to roast – so in between cooking and dishes, I would do homework while things baked / boiled. It’s a good way to take care of two things at once.
Q: Overall do you think healthy eating in a collage environment is doable for the average person – or is it pretty time consuming and should it be reserved for the “health freaks”?
I think anyone that really wants to eat healthy can take a few extra minutes and make the time to take care of themselves. If your health is important to you, you’ll make time and you’ll find it fits in with your schedule fairly well. It’s not just for “health freaks.” Lots of people claim they don’t have time so they go to McDonalds or other fast food places, or because they’re “free” now, they tend to eat fast food and drink a lot anyways. Both are a bit extreme and it goes both ways. You just have to strike a balance and take care of things as they come at you one at a time.
Does any one else have any insightful tips on this topic?
What are your favorite “between class” (or work, if you’re working) snacks?