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Opinion: Healthy eating is difficult for college students

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The lack of time in college students’ lives contributes to the difficulty of healthy eating.


The stress of college life is seemingly never-ending. Exams, homework, classes and trying to maintain a social life can feel extremely overwhelming at times. For some students, it can be difficult to even find enough time to eat a meal. Focusing on eating healthy only makes it more strenuous.

With the fear of gaining the “freshman 15” and weight in general while in college, the pressure to eat healthy is strong and stressful. On top of the everyday activities of a college student, maintaining healthy eating habits is not always the easiest thing.

Thankfully, most dining halls have options. There are vegan, vegetarian and healthy options for those with dietary restrictions. Despite the dietary options provided, students can get bored of eating the same things every day. It’s not always as simple as eating a salad, because when that is one of the only options, it can get old fairly quickly. Having such a strict eating routine during an already rigidly scheduled day can make it difficult to maintain a certain lifestyle.

There are many students who don’t stay on a university meal plan for all four years. Once students move out of dorms, some opt to buy their food and groceries. While going to the dining hall and having the options laid out for you to grab whatever you want, making time to buy your own food and prepare it is not as simple.

Once you live on your own, the classes, exams and homework don’t go away. But, now you have to make time to prepare meals. Although it may seem like a small task to some, it isn’t as easy for students who don’t have time to prepare a full meal or buy something while out.

The lack of time in college students’ lives contributes to the difficulty of healthy eating. Most food that is quick to make is generally not as nutritious, hence why ramen and mac and cheese are labeled as “college student” foods.

The pressure to eat healthy and to look a certain way can create unnecessary stress for students who are adjusting to the new responsibility that comes with college life. This societal pressure can mentally take a toll on students who are struggling. According to the Child Mind Institute, “between 10 and 20% of women and 4 to 10% of men in college suffer from an eating disorder, and rates are on the rise.” Given these statistics, there could be approximately 1,000 to 2,000 women and 300 to 800 men struggling with eating disorders at the university.

This statistic is daunting and provides a reason why society should be more understanding towards the eating habits of college students. The harmful rhetoric surrounding college students gaining weight or deeming certain foods “college student” foods only contributes to the stress and pressure students already feel.

It needs to be more widely understood that college students have enough on their plate and that making the healthiest meal possible isn’t feasible. As a society and as college students, we should all be actively trying to fix the culture surrounding eating habits and societal pressure. Ditch the term “freshman 15” and always put your mental health first. 

Little comments can go a long way. If you notice problematic behavior amongst your friends, point out to them that their words can cause damage. As college students, there is potential for everyone to be affected by this issue. 

Social media has also been a powerful tool against the toxic culture surrounding eating habits. While there is a movement against the issue, there is also a lot of content that can be harmful. It’s become normalized to post detailed content about what they eat in a day and their daily routines This makes it easy to fall into the trap of constantly comparing yourself to others. It’s important to remember that no one’s life is the same. Especially as college students, everyone is leading different lives and their habits are affected accordingly.

At the university, there is nutrition counseling available to students struggling with eating disorders and recovery. If you think you may be struggling with any symptoms, you can reach out to them at 302-831-226. If you think a friend may be struggling with an eating disorder, consult https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/how-do-i-help to learn ways you can help.

Lily Williams is a columnist for The Review. Her opinions are her own and do not represent the majority opinion of The Review’s editorial staff. She may be reached at lillianw@udel.edu.

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