How to Stay Healthy Your First Year of College

Going off to college means starting an exciting new chapter of your life, one that's most likely pretty different from anything you've experienced before.

It's a taste of freedom that can be a little bittersweet—on the one hand, you no longer have a curfew and don't have to abide by rules put in place by your parents any longer, but on the other hand, you're in a whole new environment and possibly far away from the comforts of home. Because of this, the first year of college has gotten quite a reputation. One of the biggest factors in this reputation? Health. Phrases like the "freshman fifteen" get thrown around regularly, and you've no doubt heard about the late-night pizza deliveries, cheap ramen and dining hall dates.

So, with all the temptation to eat junk often and sleep in even more often, how exactly are you supposed to try and stay healthy? We can help. Here's your go-to pocket-sized guide on how to stay healthy in college.

1. Know Your Meal Plan

Do you have unlimited swipes? If so, use them wisely—you don't need to ball out at the buffet every time you go just because it has everything. Do you have limited dining dollars to spend on campus? Use that money wisely as well by knowing what healthy options are available that will help you get the most out of it. With plenty of access to fast food and all sorts of cookies, burgers and other delights available on an all-you-can-eat basis at the buffet-style dining hall, you might be tempted to simply grab the easiest option on your way to your study session, but your body (and brain) will thank you if you choose to use your food freedom in a smarter way. When in doubt, fill your plate with more fruits and veggies—you can even swipe a few extras from the dining hall to take back to your dorm—we won't tell anyone!


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Also Read About: 6 Healthy Habits to Embrace This School Year


2. Try to Find a Routine

While high school probably kept you on a pretty strict go-to-class-at-the-same-time-every-day schedule, college can be a lot more volatile. You might not even have classes some days until the afternoon, which can lead to a temptation to sleep in and skip breakfast while you're at it. And all of that isn't even counting the late nights, whether you spend them pulling all-nighters at the library or hanging out with your new dorm mates. However, shifting your sleep schedule so often does nothing but wreak havoc on your body. Your quality of sleep will suffer, and so will your energy levels during the times you are awake. Instead, try your best to stick to at least some sort of a routine, even if it's a flexible one. Think: waking up before 9 am every day, even if it's 7 am one day and 8:59 am the next. In the same vein, try to set yourself a decent bedtime, at least on nights that you have class the next day. You'll feel much more refreshed and far less likely to accidentally sleep in past your alarm (your grades will thank you for this as well).


Also read about: 5 Things That Are Normal In College That Aren't Normal Any Other Time


3. Find a Way of Exercising That You Enjoy

If you're a gym person, take advantage of the access you have to your university's rec center. And honestly—take advantage of it even if you're not a gym person, it's coming out of your tuition either way! If you're more of a runner, you might enjoy any trails on or around your campus. There's also a good chance that your college has several intramural clubs to join if you're a fan of a specific sport, but want to play more for fun than for actual competition. Whatever you do, just try to stay active and enjoy all the benefits that exercise provides for your physical and mental health.


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4. Know How to Make At Least a Few Meals From Your Dorm

Whether you're out of swipes/dining dollars or simply can't be bothered to put on pants to leave your dorm room for food, it's always good to have a few easy recipes up your sleeve to whip up when needed. And no, we're not talking about ramen out of a styrofoam cup. Think dishes like simple veggie-laden pasta, soup, eggs or other easy but nutritious meals that you can create in less time than it takes to watch an episode of your favorite Netflix comedy.


Also Read About: 6 Things You Should Learn How to Do Before Graduating High School


5. Find Friends You Can Confide In

Staying healthy in college means keeping your mental health in good shape, too. One of the best ways to do that is by surrounding yourself with a group of friends you can trust, and who can trust you right back. And don't worry, making friends in college isn't as hard as you think. The key is to find people with who you enjoy spending time and whom you feel truly comfortable and yourself around, as you'll be more able to open up and confide in them when you need to.


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Still worried about finding your new group of besties once you trade in the halls of your high school for a dorm hall? Worry not—we've got you covered. Click HERE for some easy ways to make friends.