When students are off to college, one of the first things they need to start thinking about is their health. However, this not usually the case. It is much easier and less time consuming to make unhealthy choices, especially when they are surrounded by Pizza, chicken fingers, Mac ‘N’ Cheese, candy and unlimited junk food everyday at the cafeteria. Not to mention, all the thrilling college parties every other week with “all you can drink” booze along with drugs. As inviting and appealing as all these may seem in the beginning, students need to be smart enough to keep their physical health and mental health in check.

Furthermore, anxiety is often at play when students meet new people, face new experiences, new temptations, new stresses and new decisions. It’s unlike high school where parents are there to guide their kids or watch over them so they are pretty much on their own which may be exciting, freeing and for some, terrifying.

The funny thing is that we haven’t even gotten into the education part of college with thousands of assignments, quizzes, midterms and finals over the next few years. These will leave students with sleepless nights, work stress, and hunching over the computer keyboard all the time.

Students should take it easy and realize that the point of college is to maintain balance and enjoy the incredible experiences that the journey through college has to offer. The mind and body carry us through our daily activities so it is pretty obvious that they need a certain level of maintenance to run smoothly. So, its okay to be “Beercules” on a few occasions as long as you balance it out by becoming “Yoda” on most occasions.

Change is inevitable as students look to celebrate their independence going into college. As long as that change is positive for the mind and body, all is good. So, here are some tips you can use to stay healthy in college.

1. Eat Right

Fast food and snacks like Pizza, chips and candy is usually the most preferred menu in college. As shocking as it may sound to many, diabetes is real. Eating healthy in college may be difficult as healthy choices are either limited or comparatively more expensive. For instance, students are more likely to pay 5 dollars for burger and fries than 8 dollars for a salad. A three-time meal is difficult for students to have as they are likely to miss at least one meal on a daily basis. This is usually breakfast, AKA, the most important meal of the day. A typical college breakfast usually consists of cereal or cold leftovers from the night before or older. The first thing students can do is start off with a healthy breakfast. A good start to the day will only help the body function better. It doesn’t take a lot of time to make some eggs, a whole-wheat sandwich or a quick fruit salad. Plus, students can stock their fridge with food like pre-cut vegetables, low-fat cheese, juices, milk, pita bread, string cheese, protein bars and so much more. This way, they can avoid having to buy unhealthy snacks first thing and save some money at the same time. For lunch and dinner, students should try to keep a good balance of protein, carbs and avoid fast food as much as they can. It is needless to say that this routine can be managed all the time, but the keyword here is balance. Having at least one or two healthy meals in a day is better than having none.

2. Sleep and Exercise

All-nighters and partying until 3 a.m. are pretty normal in college as long as they do not become a habit. Sleep deprivation is one of the biggest contributors to fatigue, headaches, weight loss or gain as well as reduced brain function. A minimum of six to seven hours sleep is recommended daily which doesn’t mean students can’t party, study at night, and do other activities every once in a while. A nap during the day is a blessing if students can organize and manage time well. On the other hand, fitting exercise into the schedule is often very difficult for students unless they are active in sports. Exercising doesn’t mean going to the gym. Walking is the easiest ways to get exercise and dorm rooms have sufficient space to do some cardio or indoor yoga. Maintaining physical fitness and regular exercise during college is a perk that may end after graduation as life only gets busier afterwards.

3. Back of the Drinks and other Drugs

If anyone asks what “Freshman 15” is, the picture above of fat Thor should explain it beautifully. Yes, college is the time to test your limits and experiment with alcohol and drugs. However, students need to prepare for the inevitable hangovers, beer belly, mood swings and even depression. It is a common thought that alcohol and drugs can be used to “self-medicate” but in reality, they only aggravate problems. This is what teachers can expect to find in class after the party on campus.

4. Drink lots of Water

Staying hydrated not only increases memory function and stabilizes mood but also promotes excess weight loss. Students should choose water instead of soda, and bring it with them while walking to class. They can also cut down on the cost by drinking filtered water which they can refill in plastic bottled water.

5. Organize

In college, one of main reasons students are stressed and cannot make time for everything is lack of organization. Organization doesn’t necessarily make you a nerd even though it does make you much smarter than others. It’s quite simple though if one can manage to follow routines or schedules for a short time until they eventually get used to it. In 24 hours, students can dedicate different times for activities. First and foremost, making time for 3-time meals is of the top priority. Secondly, calculating sleep has been proven to be effective for students as it can mentally trick the mind into thinking the body has had had sufficient rest. Finally, students need to manage their time for studies and socializing which can be tricky as they have got assignments, quizzes and projects along with a social life which is important even though not of equal priority.

6. Avoid Caffeine and Sodas

Caffeinated beverages like soda, coffee and energy drinks can be temporarily beneficial when studying or doing late-night homework. However, they are ultimately harmful in the long run. If energy boost is what students are after, they can try eating foods with high-protein and fiber. This does not mean they should completely cut-off but keeping everything within a normal limit is what they should opt for.

7. Find the Right Group of Friends

In many cases, the right friends are all students need to stay healthy in college, at least mentally speaking. Making the right friends is easier said than done, but one needs to put in an effort. For instance, many kids from high school go to the same college together. Some meet new people in class or during extra-curricular activities like sports, parties or social clubs. Having someone to spend time with, study, have fun with and get through college is one of the keys to staying healthy in college.

8. Hygiene is Important

This is pretty obvious. Students who maintain basic hygiene in college should rarely face any illness. It starts with personal hygiene which includes oral hygiene followed by keeping your space clean. During flu season, getting a flu shot can save students from viruses and colds which get pretty common during different times of the year.

9. Join a Sports Team or a Social Club

Joining any sports team is beneficial for physical fitness as well as for making friends and socializing. Plus, performing with the crowd cheering is another level of happiness to boost your endorphins. Sure, physical sports have their downs as well which include fatigue and injuries, but that’s quite normal.

10. Eat with Friends

From a personal point of view, one of the best experiences in college life is having a meal with friends. Even though it may seem impossible to spare some time to socialize, half an hour is enough to grab dinner with friends and it has some really important health benefits. Watching some television with friends, playing video games or simply having a conversation with them is a great way to reduce stress, increase happiness and alleviate feelings of depression. It is also said that sharing a mean also controls the amount of food one eats as compared to eating alone where all the attention is on food alone which can make the person over eat. When eating with friends, part of the attention is in the company and the activity going