Trying to juggle being a college student, having a job, and living a healthy lifestyle comes with so many challenges. I am going into my junior year at Duquesne University as a Finance major. I will admit I do have it a little easier because I do commute to campus daily, I don’t live there so I have the option of not having to eat at the dining hall. Here’s a few tips of how I juggle everything myself:
Start planning a few weeks in advance
I like to look at my schedule and create an excel document of my work and class schedule or at least write it out in my planner so I know when I’ll have time to eat meals or go to the gym or do homework. My classes start on August 22nd and I have already been looking at my schedule and planning everything around it. I know it may change as you start getting into the first few weeks of classes but at least you will have an idea before you start and know that it is and will be possible to handle.
Use a planner
I know a lot of time universities will hand out a student planner during the first week of classes, use it. It makes life a lot simpler when you can write down all the due dates for assignment and dates for tests and quizzes. You can also use it to keep track of workouts and meals. I know there are a lot of apps that are being used for it now also which is also very convenient. I personally like to write everything out rather than keep it in my phone because I just feel like it’s a lot more helpful for me to see it written and it’ll actually motivate me to get things accomplished.
Meal Planning/ Prep
Meal planning and meal prep makes life so much simpler when it’s one less thing you have to worry about during the day. I like to make chicken or ground turkey on sundays and then steam some veggies and rice or sweet potatoes and have enough at least for lunch. Sometimes I also just buy bread or wraps so I can make a sandwich for lunch to switch things up. I always keep protein/ granola bars in my bookbag for a quick snack throughout the day because sometimes I am there later than expected and did not pack enough meals.
I know eating healthy on a college student budget is often hard but the easiest thing to do is shop the sales and be smart about the choices that you make. Make sure what you buy is reasonable, don’t just look at one store, look at the different store that are most convenient to you, some may have better deals than others. I like to shop at Aldi’s, which is an off-brand grocery store, their products are just as good as name-brand items that you would find in a grocery store such as Giant Eagle or Shop N’ Save.
Also, if you have access to a wholesale membership like Costco or Sam’s Club, they often have good deals on meat or you can buy large bags of frozen vegetables that just need steamed. Some colleges may even offer a discount on warehouse club memberships, don’t be afraid to ask around, normally if you have questions about discounts and different things like that I would start by going to the Office of Student Life or something similar, they could direct you where to go. If you do not live on campus like I do, six pack bags or fitmark bags make it easy to carry meals around, especially if you are going to be on campus all day. Most schools do have microwaves somewhere in a dining hall or even in different dining locations throughout campus, don’t be afraid to ask a dining hall worker where it is if you can’t find it.
If you live on campus, I know you don’t have many options to bring your own food and cook your own food. If you live in a basic dorm, you probably have space for a mini fridge and a microwave. To make sure you get your fruits and veggies in you can always purchase veggies and then buy a microwavable steamer, these help a lot. You can put raw or frozen veggies in there and just microwave it. Cooking any type of protein is also not easy in a normal dorm, my advice for this is if you decide to go to the cafeteria get a togo container and take some simple grilled chicken. I know at the cafeteria in my school they do have simple grilled chicken sandwiches that I normally get and I just don’t eat the bun (you can eat the bun if you need carbs) and I always take a side of veggies. If you are on the go you can always pick up a piece of fruit from the dining hall and save it for a snack later.
If you do have access to a communal kitchen that includes a stove or an oven utilize it. You can buy your own food and cook it there. You could buy your meat such as chicken or ground turkey and cook it all at once and then just split it up for different meals in storage containers so you can take along with you to the dining hall to eat with friends. Storage containers are very convenient, you can find them pretty cheap online or at the grocery store, don’t throw them away after one use, just clean them and reuse them.
Don’t get discouraged
If you have an assignment due or a group project, don’t get discouraged if you have to miss a workout, it’s one workout, it’s not going to kill you if you miss it. I will be the first to admit, I am a person who gets very frustrated if I have to miss a workout or if I have a bad meal. Getting passed that is sometimes difficult, I’ve seen myself at the gym late in the evening around 9 PM when I am tired and don’t want to be there. If you’ve had a long tiring day it’s not worth trying to force yourself, it’ll become a chore and your workout will actually suffer. If you know you have a test or an assignment due date coming up plan ahead, plan time that you are going to need to study, instead of studying the night before try to study for a few days and if you don’t feel comfortable that you are going to do well once you hit the night before then take extra time to study and that may mean an unplanned rest day. If you end up taking an unplanned rest day, remember, tomorrow is a new day and one day is not going to kill you!
Free food: take it or leave it
During the first week there are many opportunities for free food and it’s not always the best – at least at my school they offer many ways to connect socially over food. I’ve experienced events with pizza, chicken tenders, nachos, or even ice cream. Sometimes the offers are hard to pass up and you decide you are going to take it. That’s completely reasonable, just remember: don’t over do it. You can take one piece of pizza or 1 or 2 chicken tenders and it’s not going to kill you. You also don’t need to feel the pressure to take more than that just because those around you are taking seconds or even thirds. If you are tracking macros, some of these things are easy to track you may just have to fix your day around it. Just be mindful of your choices and just make sure you don’t overdo it. College is a time to live and have fun, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have healthy goals at the same time.
Partake in activities with friends
Don’t limit your time with your friends because you don’t want to miss a workout or you are afraid you are going to eat something bad. If you go out to dinner just make mindful choices. No matter how you’re counting or tracking your meals, you can always look online to see if the restaurant has their nutritional information online. If not, Cristina has posted other ways to help estimate your macros for restaurant dishes. If you decide to go out one night and decide to drink you can calculate macros for drinks or have just one.
You don’t want to limit yourself, but you also need set priorities. Class comes before the gym because you are a student first. Mental health is just as important as eating well and working out. You need to enjoy life outside of classes, school work, and your healthy lifestyle. Balance is hard and may not always seem possible, but it’s not something that is completely unattainable – it just takes some work, nothing is ever actually easy. Don’t be scared to give it a try, sometimes it’s a lot easier than you expect.