Staying Healthy When You Leave For College: The Food and Wellness Edition

How to stay healthy at college | Miami Center of Excellence

Going away to college can be a hard time. But when you prepare yourself, the transition can be easier.

Going off to college is one of the most exciting experiences you have in life. When you’ve been cared for by your parents or guardian your whole life, suddenly having to take care of yourself can be daunting, and for some, an overwhelming experience. But, there are easy and even fun ways to get started.

The easiest and most convenient way to stay healthy is to start with what you put in your body, and how you take care of it. This week we discuss a few things you can do to keep your body and mind healthy and prepared for anything.


Food Prep

When you leave the comfort of your parent’s kitchen and start making your own food choices, sometimes things can go a bit awry (and those 8:00 am classes do not lend themselves to making healthy breakfast choices, #amiright?). But there are a few minimal things you can do to set yourself up for success.

  • Keep healthy snacks on hand. Head down to your local shop, or the cafeteria if you have a meal plan or food credits. Grab some fruits, veggies, or healthy snack options like nutty trail mixes to keep on you when you’re in between classes. It will keep you from heading towards the vending machines.
  • Have a kitchen in your dorm/apartment? Use it! Learning to cook is the ultimate way to know what you’re putting into your body. Research healthy meal recipes and improvise as you get better! As a bonus, cooking in the common areas is a great way to meet the people around you.
  • If you do go out to eat, enjoy it. Having a meal out with new friends is always an enjoyable experience. Many restaurants now have a “lighter choice” menu that will help you stick with your healthy food plan, while still having a delicious meal.


Working Out

Working out is proven to not only keep your body fit and your heart in shape, but it also helps keep your mind active and alert! And the best part about exercise is that you really can do it anywhere.

  • You probably have a gym. Take advantage of it. Most college campuses have a gym that you can use as long as you’re paying school fees. And because it’s a school gym, they are usually open before and after traditional class hours.
  • Grab your dorm mates and do a group class. Whether you all go for a brisk power walk, or pop in a yoga DVD, working out with a group is a fun way to get those minutes in and create a group of accountability buddies.
  • Go for a run, or a bike ride around campus. It’s a great way to get to know the area, and maybe discover a new place to hang out!
  • Take a physical fitness class. Do you need just one more credit for the semester? Many campuses offer classes such as soccer, tennis, and even fencing! Taking a sports course will not only naturally increase the hours you put in towards fitness, but it’s a fun way to increase your GPA!


Mental Health

College is hard, and it’s okay if you feel like you need a mental health checkup. If you’re feeling alone, don’t! Did you know…

  • 80% of college students feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities
  • 50% have become so anxious that they struggle in school
  • 40% of students don’t seek help

There are many programs on campus that help students with mental health issues. These services are usually included in your student fees, or by standard health insurance. (Remember, if you’re under 26, you qualify as a dependent on your parent/guardian’s health insurance!) And don’t forget to see if there are any free programs available. Feeling stressed about your mental health? Maybe one of these options will help.

Find stress relief through coping mechanisms.

We’re talking meditation, deep-breathing exercises, yoga, etc. If it’s something that allows you to focus your mind and helps you to decompress in a constructive and helpful way, do it!

Join a student support group.

If you’re looking for something a little informal, joining a student support group might be the best option for you. Student-lead support groups can cover a variety of topics dealing with loss, addition, stress, etc. It can be a good way to remind yourself that you’re not alone, and it’s also a great way to meet like-minded people.

Make an appointment with your school’s counselor or psychologist.

Many students know your campus has a counselor, but don’t always feel comfortable going. Your school’s mental health professional is held to the same confidentiality standards as one in a hospital or doctor’s office. So there is no worry that your professor will learn about your mental health status unless you inform them.

Seek help from a psychiatrist.

If you have tried other options and aren’t finding any relief, medication might be the key to your recovery. Make an appointment with a trusted psychiatrist and work on a medication schedule that works for you.


Leaving for college is a huge adjustment that can take time and a lot of personal adjustment. But if you remember to stay present and plan, you can make it a successful transition.

Stay tuned to Miami Center of Excellence for next week’s “College Life” series where we discuss navigating the world of campus drugs and alcohol, and sexual health.