Healthy Eating Tips for University and College Students Moving Away from Home Print

Parent Nutrition Tips for Helping Kids Survive First Year

As a parent or caregiver, as you prep your kids for moving away from home for the first time, have you thought about their nutrition? At this time of year, the Dietitians at our practice are often having discussions with our clients transitioning to post-secondary school residence or an apartment.

Here are some of the most common nutrition issues facing college and university students and what you can do as a parent or caregiver to help them with sound, healthy habits.

Healthy eating for university or college student life

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Issue 1: Navigating the residence cafeteria

Take the time to review the cafeteria menu and vendor options on campus (often online or can be sent to you by e-mail) together. Ask kids about their course schedule and when meals and snacks might work best for them. Since ultimately you have no control over their eating choices, talk to them about what they could do versus what they should do.

Remind them that they could choose to eat something every three to five hours (for managing a healthy weight as well as optimal energy, productivity and concentration at school).

Remind them they could choose a balanced meal for breakfast, lunch and supper that includes three components; firstly a grain or starchy food, second vegetables or fruit, and third a source of protein.

Carbohydrates (grains, starches, fruits and veggies) will fuel their brain with energy and protein (meat, poultry, seafood, legumes, eggs, nuts, seeds and dairy foods) offer satiety, and sustain energy longer.

Plant the idea that all foods fit and that there are no bad foods, just bad overall diets. Campus offers plenty of choice, and the key is balancing out indulgent choices such as french fries, desserts, and beer with plenty of vegetables, fruit and water.

Issue 2: No residence room food backups

Seek a residence room that has a sink and allows a small bar fridge. This will not only allow kids to prepare healthy convenient breakfast items and snacks, but can also save on the cost of eating out.

Top choices to stash in a bar fridge:

• Easy to prepare and eat fruit such as grapes, apples, oranges, pears and berries
• Milk or calcium fortified beverages such as soy, almond or rice beverages
• Single serving yogurt, Greek yogurt and cottage cheese
• Pre-sliced cheese (often found in the deli section)
• Hard cooked eggs (often found in the egg section pre-prepared)
• Cream cheese, raw veggie dip, hummus, nut butters and jam
• Pre-cut or easy to eat raw veggies such as stir-fry mixes, baby carrots, grape/cherry tomatoes and snap/snow peas
• Freezer: unsweetened frozen berries and mango pieces

Other foods to stash in a residence room:

• Dried fruit such as raisins, apricots, cranberries, dates, prunes and figs
• Unsweetened applesauce cups and bananas
• Trail mix, pumpkin seeds and nuts such as almonds, cashews, peanuts and pecans
• Hemp hearts, chia seeds and ground flax seeds (to add to oatmeal, cereal and yogurt)
• Granola, oatmeal and high-fibre breakfast cereals
• Whole grain crackers
• Energy bars, protein bars or dried fruit and nut bars
• Rip and ready pouches of tuna (no draining required) or mini cans of flavoured tuna
• Whole grain sliced bread or English muffins, pitas or bagels

Issue 3: Poor shopping and meal prep skills

If your kids will be moving into an apartment for university or college, don’t take for granted that grocery shopping, budgeting, meal planning, and cooking basic meals and snacks are easy.

Think back to when you moved out for the first time and some of the struggles you had. Many of our clients describe roommate challenges and buying either too much or not enough to get by. Keeping to a budget and not wasting food can be hard if you haven’t done the shopping before and are dealing with new stressors and a busy schedule at school.

Consider booking your son or daughter with a Registered Dietitian for support (plus, sometimes advice coming from an expert is better received than mom or dad). Help your kids at the start of the year by setting up their kitchen with basic spices, condiments, and the essentials for making their first week of meals and snacks. Help them make a budget, reusable grocery-shopping list (phone app or paper) and send them copies of a dozen of simple family favourite supper recipes.

While of course they could do this on their own, don’t underestimate how your help and reminders of easy ideas of what to cook can set the stage for healthy habits for the year to come.

Need more support on eating healthy as a college or university student?

Contact us for help! 

As Registered Dietitians that specialize in meal planning, weight concerns, emotional eating, eating disorders, digestive health, heart health, diabetes, pediatric nutrition and sports nutrition we can see you in our local Calgary nutritionist office or as an Online Dietitian by phone or video conferencing for virtual nutrition counseling. Find out more about our Dietitian Nutrition Counseling Programs here.

As university trained Registered Dietitians, you can count on us for credible advice and practical meal planning so you don’t have to stress about food anymore. You can achieve a healthy and joyous relationship with food and your body. Let’s talk about what this can look like for you. CONTACT US.

About Andrea Holwegner

CEO, Registered Dietitian, Counseling Practice Director & Professional Speaker

Andrea the «Chocoholic Nutritionist» is founder and CEO of Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc. since 2000. She is an online nutrition course creator, professional speaker and regular guest in the media. Andrea is the recipient of an award by the Dietitians of Canada: The Speaking of Food & Healthy Living Award for Excellence in Consumer Education....Read more

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"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
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Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
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Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

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I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

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Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
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ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Andrea is an excellent teacher and motivator. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
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