The Wellness Library

Nutrition Tips for Sending Kids Off to College

by | Aug 9, 2023 | Wellness

Is your child (not so child anymore) going off to college? As parents, it’s hard for us to not be packing lunches anymore or having a say about what foods our grown children are choosing. Yes, it’s nice not to have to really worry about it anymore and allow them a sense of freedom, but as a health conscious parent myself, I know how important it is for my grown children to be fueling their bodies with the right things!

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A steady diet of pizza and burgers can lead to lower grades, illness, fatigue, higher risks of depression, anxiety, irritability, difficulty concentrating, menstrual problems and sleep disturbances. At the end of the day, fast food and unhealthy food in general, simply don’t provide our children with the nutrition they need to perform well in school. Developing a balanced and nutrient dense diet at a young age helps set our children up for a lifetime of healthy eating and less incidence of illness and chronic diseases.

Most likely, your child will be getting most of their food from an on campus dining hall. In recent years, most colleges and universities recognize that their students have diverse dietary needs and offer a wider range of traditional, vegetarian and vegan options. Dining halls can seem overwhelming for students, especially those who are making food choices for themselves for the first time. 

Here are some tips to help your student conquer the dining hall: 

  • Plan meals ahead of time to avoid last minute decisions when you’re starving!
  • Remember to eat from all food groups, especially focusing on colorful fruits and veggies.
  • Experiment with options to decide what you like and don’t like (don’t be afraid to try new things!)
  • Redefine dessert – don’t always reach for processed, packaged goods but look into eating fruit or fruit based desserts like smoothies, juices or fruit popsicles.
  • Drink more water and pay attention to the amount of added sugars in other beverages.
  • Try to avoid vending machines!
  • Pack healthy snacks and plenty of water when you know you’ll be on campus for extended periods of time.

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Your student will likely be sharing a space with a roommate in a dorm. Dorms are known to be on the smaller side and usually don’t have big refrigerators. 

Here are some things to keep on hand in dorm rooms:

  • Store healthy foods like fruits (apples, bananas, mandarins, pears), veggies (cucumbers, grape tomatoes, mini peppers), no sugar added dried fruit, whole grain cereal, granola or oatmeal at room temperature
  • Stock your fridge with healthy options like baby carrots, low sugar yogurt, bagged, pre cut veggies and single serve hummus or guacamole
  • Have healthy snacks on hand like popcorn, Rx bars, Larabars, rice cakes and nut butters

If your student’s dorm contains a microwave, here are some easy and quick meals they can try:

  • Eggs can be hard boiled, scrambled or made in a mug 
  • Single serve brown or white rice
  • Baked potatoes or sweet potatoes
  • Oatmeal
  • Frozen veggies with beans

If your student will be living in an apartment where they have access to a full kitchen, here are some tips to help ensure they’re eating as healthy as possible:

  • Plan meals ahead of time
  • Make a list of ingredients needed for meals and choose a day to go grocery shopping
  • Try to stick to the list as much as possible to keep your budget healthy and avoid impulse buys that are usually not healthy!
  • Try out a new fruit or veggie each time you go grocery shopping
  • Buy items you use a lot of in bulk
  • Find items (like pre cut or frozen veggies) that make cooking easier and quicker
  • Batch cook so you have meals that last you a few days or all week

With these tips, your student should be able to make healthy choices on campus. Don’t forget to let your student know that it’s ok to indulge every once in a while and most importantly, encourage them to feed their souls by surrounding themselves with people who are positive and doing things that bring them joy!

1 Comment

  1. Shaema Imam

    This article came at the perfect time! We are dropping off our son to his dorm on Sunday God Willing and I was going to make some healthy options that he could keep in the freezer like kababs and hummus


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