Eating healthy in college is not always an easy feat, especially as a freshman. Between living the #dormlyfe and likely not having access to a fully-stocked kitchen, navigating dining halls that don’t always have the most appealing options, and having a consistently busy schedule, finding the time and motivation to plan out a healthy, well-balanced meal sometimes just doesn’t happen.

While I would say that I have always been a healthy eater, I found eating habits slightly decline during my freshman year. Late night snacking became the norm. Skipping ice cream after dinner was a rarity. And, deciding to opt out of breakfast definitely didn’t benefit me on a Monday with four back-to-back lectures.

But, freshman spoonies, you need not worry. With two semesters under my belt, I am going to disclose to you everything I wish I knew about eating in college, so you can avoid making the mistakes that I made.

1. Eat something in the morning.

You’ve heard this time and time again: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But hey, college can be hectic, man. Perhaps you don’t have enough time to get to the dining hall the morning before class. Or, it could be that you’re like me. You just don’t get hungry until it’s too late, and your stomach decides to exact its revenge by imitating whale calls in your 10 a.m. class.

In spite of all of this, while you may not feel compelled to eat a full breakfast, it is wise to eating something—even something small—in the morning.

Eating breakfast is linked with a lower risk for various health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity. In addition to this, multiple studies have found that eating breakfast is likely to improve cognitive function related to memory and concentration…definitely a plus for those early morning classes.

When you skip breakfast, you tend to snack a lot more during the day because your body is trying to "make up for it." But, when you eat breakfast, hunger is reduced, preventing overeating throughout the rest of the day. This will increase your energy level and boost your metabolism. 

2. Just because they're serving it doesn’t mean you should put it on your plate.

Seriously. Without the discretion (or cooking) of your parents, the freedom to choose what you want to eat is now up to you. But, with power comes responsibility, and just because the dining hall serves your favorite French fries every day doesn't mean they should become part of your daily regimen.

Sorry, Anderson.

It is vital to maintain healthy eating habits because as I have learned, it is very easy to let them slip. Just talk to my boys, Ben and Jerry.

In order to avoid giving into temptation, I recommend setting limits for yourself. Focus on eating healthy food that you know you will enjoy and go from there. If you are having a difficult time going a day without ice cream, walk into the dining hall with the mindset that you are only going to indulge a few times a week.

…okay, I still struggle with that one.

3. Stock up on the produce.

I cannot stress this enough. I don’t know why this is, but sometimes, fresh fruit seems like it's on the brink of extinction at college. If you don’t have a refrigerator in your room, there is probably less of a desire to purchase fruits and vegetables when buying snacks. And at times, those apples in the dining hall look like an afterthought placed next to the plates of chocolate chip cookies, brownies and cakes.

If your dining hall is serving fresh fruit, unzip your backpack and fill it to the brim. Those Rice Krispies Treats will still be there tomorrow.

4. Chill on the late-night snacking.

This one is a continuous struggle for me. Going back to the breakfast issue, make sure you eat enough in the morning to reduce your chance of overeating during the day. However, regardless of your breakfast consumption, it is very possible that you will come back from the library after a late-night study session feeling like a ravenous beast…or is that just me?

To avoid snacking so much at night, make sure to eat a substantial dinner, full of protein and vegetables. The high fiber content will keep you full longer and less compelled to chow down on empty calories.

Or, eat snacks with healthy protein and fat during the day, such as apples and peanut butter, trail mix, yogurt, cheese and guacamole.

5. Minimize eating out.

Odds are, if you’re a college student, you aren’t dining at critically acclaimed restaurants all that often...but if you are, let's be friends.

Depending on your college's town, the go-to spot may be Panera. Or, maybe it’s Chipotle. Regardless of your school’s hot spot eatery, the meals served there may not exemplify the pinnacle of health, and they do come with a price, no matter how cheap they may be.

Make the most of your meal plan, and venture off campus for occasions more significant than the Tuesday night after your anatomy exam. You are paying for the food at school anyway.

7. Take advantage of functions that serve free food.

'Nuff said. Whether the Italian club is having a pasta dinner for all of its members, or your RA is ordering pizza for the monthly floor meeting, attend these events. Someone is taking the time to provide food for college students like you, so the least you can do is eat it. And, saving a meal swipe is always a plus.

8. Get creative.

While freshman year is a time to discover your interests and passions, it is also an opportunity to explore and cultivate your culinary pursuits. A few weeks into school and that dining hall food will become quite repetitive. That's where you and your imagination come in.

Don't just stick to what's served at one section of the dining hall. Get those creative juices flowin' and play around with flavors found all over the premises. Build a salad at the salad bar, and then get some grilled chicken from the buffet line to top it off. Utilize the dining hall's toaster and ingredients from the sandwich bar to make a bangin' grilled cheese #collegestyle. The possibilities are endless.

9. Take food to go.

You know, if they're serving something edible. Whether it's a quesadilla you can heat up in your microwave, a sandwich or a bowl of cereal, make use of the dining hall's surplus of food. It's there for a reason.

Many dining halls will even give you the option of filling a to-go box if you don't have the time to sit down and eat.

10. Don't forget to indulge.

From Insomnia cookie-filled evenings to Saturday night pizza runs, don't feel the need to always hold yourself back. Self-deprivation will only compel you to overeat when in the presence of junk food, or make you feel resentful. College is a time for making memories and what better way to bring people together than food?

The first year of college is truly eye-opening when it comes to eating. But, once you map out the dining hall, take advantage of different food opportunities and become conscious of your personal eating habits, that newly acquired freedom will not be so daunting.