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Eat Healthier: 5 Long-Term Effects of a Bad College Diet

Posted by Cami Renzoni

Dec 13, 2018 9:30:00 AM

Eat Healthier: 5 Long-Term Effects of a Bad College Diet

Eat Healthier: 5 Long-Term Effects of a Bad College Diet


When you’re in college, healthy eating can be a struggle in more ways than one. Eating a balanced diet every day may not be your top priority, or even a realistic one, given your budget along with time and energy constraints. You may lack the hours necessary to plan out a healthy diet, the funds to buy nutritious foods that lower cholesterol levels and the motivation to stick to a meal plan after devoting all your energy to studying, socializing and maybe working a part-time job.

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As a busy student, it’s understandable to sacrifice healthy meals for what’s cheap, fast and convenient. When you’re young, your fast metabolism may mask the physical repercussions of poor food choices, and if you’re in good health you may not realize the long-term repercussions of an unbalanced diet. What and how you eat during your college years can affect your health long after you graduate. Poor eating habits during your early twenties can have lifelong consequences for your well-being.


How Eating Poorly in College Affects Your Long-Term Health

When you transition from high school to college life, you are typically free to make your own decisions about how to spend your time and money, as well as how to eat. With a dining hall plan or your own refrigerator in a dorm room, you can eat whatever, and whenever, you please. With this kind of freedom, it’s easy to overeat and gorge yourself on sugary foods and high-carb treats, hence the infamous freshman 15.


Eating poorly in college can include consuming far too much processed food, which can be high in:

  • Calories
  • Saturated fats
  • Trans fats
  • Simple carbohydrates
  • Sugars
  • Sodium


Maintaining a balanced diet can be a struggle during your years at a university, but the consequences of not eating healthy in your teens and early twenties can be dire. A poor diet in college can contribute to the development of chronic, nutrition-related health issues like:


  • Osteoporosis: In college, many young women experiment with fad diets, or try out eating trends that require eliminating dairy. However, this can be more harmful than helpful, as nutrients from dairy help build strong bones. Without enough calcium, bones can become porous, which can lead to osteoporosis later in life. Dr. Rebecca Corwin, an associate professor of nutritional sciences and neuroscience at Penn State University, explained, “Young women especially — you’re still laying down your bone mass. This is a prime time to be taking care of your bones and depositing in the reservoir while you still can. Dairy is not as evil or as bad as a lot of people make it out to be.”


  • Obesity: In college, you may guzzle soda, eat fast food daily, skip breakfast on your way to class or eat large meals late at night. While it’s understandable that you may be pressed for time, these eating habits can all contribute to weight gain. Without healthy eating habits and regular exercise, weight gain can lead to obesity, a condition that can negatively impact every area of your life. Among other negative health-related issues, obesity raises your risk of developing high cholesterol, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure and type-2 diabetes.


  • Diabetes: A poor diet in college can create a ripple effect of health-related consequences. The more unbalanced your diet is the higher your risk of becoming obese. When you become overweight, your body’s ability to utilize and process insulin decreases, which can lead to the development of type-2 diabetes. If left untreated, diabetes can spur the development of other diseases like kidney disease.


  • Heart disease: Eating an unbalanced diet in college can raise your risk of developing heart disease, which is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. “The first problems associated with heart disease start in the early twenties,” explained the director of the Kendall Anderson Nutrition Center, Melissa Wdowik. Eating a diet full of saturated fats and salt in college can harden your arteries which can contribute to the development of heart disease.


  • Cancers: According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an unbalanced diet (e.g., high in saturated fats and calories and lacking fruits and vegetables) raises someone’s risk of developing different types of cancer. Among other factors, cancer of the colon, gallbladder, liver and cervix can stem from a poor diet.


Tips for a Balanced Diet in College

Eating a nutritious diet in college may be difficult, but it’s not impossible. With planning, you can eat healthier every day, and reap the physical and mental benefits, like more energy and improved concentration. The earlier you establish good eating habits, the easier it will be for you to maintain a balanced diet in the future, and the better your overall health will be.


To eat a healthy diet, pile your plate with foods that are rich in calcium and fiber, including:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Lean meats
  • Low-fat dairy products
  • Whole grains


Regarding your plate, a good way to ensure your daily nutritional needs are met is to follow the healthy eating plate guide. Divide your plate into sections, with half reserved for fruits and vegetables, one quarter for whole grains and another quarter devoted to protein.


In addition to being mindful of what’s on your plate, other tips to maintain a healthy diet in college include:


  • Stock up on frozen foods: If you live in off-campus housing, one of the best ways to maintain a healthy meal strategy is to stock your freezer with frozen fruits and vegetables. These staples are no less healthy than fresh fruits and veggies and can come in handy when preparing weeknight meals.


  • Don’t wait until you’re starving to eat: If you don’t fuel your body until it’s in dire need of food, you’ll consume more calories than you normally would.


  • Eat in moderation: When you’re changing your diet, depriving yourself of delicious meals and delectable treats can set you up for failure. Even if you follow a strict diet, plan for a cheat day when you can eat what you’ve been craving. This will give you a day to look forward to each week and can help you stay motivated to meet your healthy eating goals.


  • Take a multivitamin: Even if you master the art of a balanced diet, your food may not offer all of the key nutrients your body needs. Invest in a daily multivitamin that offers multimineral support to help you stay healthy and well.


  • Drink water consistently: When you overeat, there’s a good chance that your body might be dehydrated. In addition to the incredible health benefits that come with drinking water, staying hydrated will help you feel fuller longer so that you’re less likely to reach for unhealthy snacks and can maintain a nutritious, balanced diet.


Topics: Food & Diet