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If you're living on a university campus in the dorms, you have some kind of meal plan that provides you with up to two meals a day in the college cafeteria. The food is there, and now you have to make good choices about what to eat so you don't either starve or gain a bunch of weight.

You need to eat the right calories to keep your body healthy and your energy at peak performance. Eating right means you're less tired—an important consideration for all college students. Remember, if you're between 18 and 20 years old, your body is still growing and settling into being an adult—you need to eat properly.

Making Healthy Food Choices

Remember the food pyramid you learned about in 7th grade health class? It's a good guideline for making food choices. Whole grains are first, followed by fruits and vegetables. Next you need to eat some quality protein (pepperoni is not quality protein), and consume some dairy products if you're not allergic. And you do need some fat in your diet to maintain a healthy weight and brain function.

Balanced diet is key here, and the choices you make help you achieve healthy nutrition. Eat salad bar first and then order hot food. Start your meal with fruits and veggies to take the edge of hunger off, then move on to whatever hot food they're offering that day.

Eat foods you don't “like” once a day. A carton of yogurt or three chunks of broccoli or one banana won't kill you. You may never grow to like it, but once a day will at least get some nutrition into you.

If You Want to Avoid Gaining Weight at College...

  • Don't order or eat pizza more than one day/night per week. That means one meal of pizza for every seven days, even though they'll serve it in the cafeteria every day.
  • Don't snack on potato chips and other bagged food more than two times per week. Don't snack on candy more than once per week. Choose healthier snacks when you're hungry like granola bars or a piece of fruit.
  • Don't drink soda, even diet soda. While diet soda doesn't add calories, it does throw your sense of hunger and fullness out of balance causing you to eat more. Drink water or 100 percent fruit juice with no added sugar instead.
  • Don't drink energy drinks. This may see counterintuitive because energy drinks make you feel less hungry. However, most energy drinks contain vast amounts of sugar, disturb your sleep patterns, and may make you crave carbs—causing overeating and unhealthy choices in the cafeteria.
  • Don't worry over gaining a little weight your first year of college. Men especially aren't done growing at age 18, so weight gain is to be expected as you continue to fill out. Women who make healthy food choices and stay active can avoid gaining an excessive amount of weight, too.
  • Choose to eat with friends and try not to rush.
  • Avoid alcohol. You already know why.

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