College is a time of self-discovery. For many students, this includes learning who you are away from home, defining a career path, and meeting people from around the world. This can also mean sampling new-to-you foods in the dining hall, late-night partying (and eating), and endless snacking alongside marathon study sessions. It’s not surprising that this newfound freedom is oftentimes accompanied by the “Freshman 15.” But instead of worrying about the number on the scale, focus on your health and how you feel. To find out how the Mediterranean diet can make college life easier, keep reading!
The Mediterranean diet is an eating style inspired by the Mediterranean region, with the following guidelines:
- Eat more fresh produce, including vegetables and fruit, whole grains, and healthy fats like olive oil, nuts, and seeds
- Consume moderate amounts of fish and dairy products
- Eat less red meat, saturated fats, added sugar, and processed foods
Research studies repeatedly prove that the Mediterranean diet may reduce your risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes, and increase longevity. Simply put, this way of eating eliminates the guesswork and makes college life easier in a variety of ways.
Here’s how you can adopt the Mediterranean diet while you’re busy at school:
Choose More Whole Foods and Less Processed Foods
It’s common to stock your dorm room with overly processed and packaged shelf-stable foods but relying on these foods as your go-to can lead to feeling bloated, sluggish, and tired. Opt-out of processed dorm room staples, like instant ramen, and choose less processed options with ingredient lists you can recognize. Most dorm rooms come equipped with a mini-fridge, freezer, and microwave—which are all you need for quick and healthy Mediterranean-inspired meals.
Here are some easy Mediterranean-style dorm room meals you can make in minutes:
- Mexican stuffed sweet potato (Microwave a sweet potato and top it with rinsed canned black beans, salsa, and avocado)
- Zoodles (zucchini noodles) with pre-made grilled chicken and tomato sauce (Add all ingredients to a bowl and heat it up in the microwave)
Start Your Day the Mediterranean Way
Breakfast is one of the easiest meals to make Mediterranean-inspired. Choose mostly plant-based proteins, like nuts and seeds, whole grains, and healthy fats. Plant-based proteins contain less saturated fat and more fiber than animal proteins. Combining protein and fiber will help you stay full throughout your morning classes.
Here are some easy Mediterranean-inspired breakfast ideas:
- Whole grain toast topped with almond butter and banana slices, sprinkled with chia seeds
- Greek yogurt with fresh fruit and walnuts
- Whole wheat toast topped with mashed avocado and smoked salmon
- Oatmeal bowl topped with fresh fruit, peanut butter, and sliced almonds
- Veggie omelet with avocado toast
Fill Your Plate with Vegetables and Fruit
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes fresh vegetables and fruit. Follow the USDA’s MyPlate recommendations and fill half of your plate with vegetables at most meals. Vegetables are full of fiber and water to keep you full, plus vitamins and minerals for an immune boost your busy college life can use!
The plethora of options available in on-campus dining facilities make it easy to get side-tracked away from veggies. When you survey the options in the dining hall, commit to filling half your plate with vegetables. If you return for seconds (or thirds), fill half of your plate with vegetables again.
Make it easy to meet the recommended 2-3 daily servings of fruit by stocking up at breakfast and snacks. Take an apple, orange, or banana from the dining hall for on the go munching between classes.
Simplify Your Study Snacks
It’s easy to rely on packaged snacks from the library vending machine or convenience store during grueling study sessions, but think ahead and bring smart snacks with you for busy days. Mediterranean-inspired snacks like nuts, seeds, cut up veggies and fresh fruit provide a steady stream of energy instead of a quick fix and subsequent [blood] sugar crash you’ll get from a bag of chips or candy.
A balanced Mediterranean-inspired snack contains some protein, healthy fats, and filling fiber. Here are some ideas that are easy to bring with you on the go:
- Sliced apple, celery sticks, or baby carrots with peanut butter
- Hard-boiled egg with grapes
- DIY trail mix made with mixed nuts and dried fruit
- Greek yogurt with berries
- Oatmeal energy bites
By using these tips to fuel your body the Mediterranean way, you’ll have more stamina to focus on your studies, social life, and even squeeze in a workout at the campus gym!