How to Eat Healthy as a Graduate Student

By Mackenzie Pedersen, Staff Writer

In today’s fast-paced society, people expect answers ASAP. People are constantly replying to emails, taking phone calls, completing projects and homework, and overall are go-go-go! Sometimes, it’s difficult to eat healthy when you’re just looking for the most convenient thing that will calm the storm occurring in your belly. If you’re like me when you get hungry, you get a little irritable, easily upset, and everything always seems to go wrong (even though it’s just in your head)… Being a grad student, health nut, and food addict, I can sympathize and understand the difficulties with trying to live a healthy lifestyle, especially when there are so many tasty, convenient treats out there. However, if you truly want to be healthy, you can do it! Here are some pointers to get you started:

Make Healthy Substitutions

When your diet is constantly bombarded with meals produced by restaurants and/or fast food joints, you might think that eating healthy is too hard, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some great tips for when you’re eating out:

  • Stick to leaner proteins
    Image courtesy of
    • Chicken, turkey, fish, and vegetable protein (like tofu, tempeh, leafy greens) are great options.
  • Try to avoid deep-fried foods or breaded foods:
    • Take for instance, Chik-fil-A nuggets. The breaded nuggets are 260 calories whereas the grilled nuggets are 140 calories! That’s a 120 calorie difference (according to the Chik-fil-A website)!
  • If you can, substitute a lettuce wrapped sandwich or whole wheat bread
    • This will allow you to save calories and get some leafy green benefits, or whole grains benefits!
  • Substitute fries for fresh fruits or vegetables
    • Not only will this contain less calories, but you’ll be closer to reaching your fiber goals.
  • Skip the soda!!!
    • Soda is packed with unnecessary sugars, preservatives, and calories. Furthermore, the caffeine in most sodas will dehydrate you, thus making water a healthier option.
  • Ask for the dressing on the side
    • If you have the dressing on the side, you’re less likely to use all the dressing, thus saving yourself extra calories.

Think of WHY you’re eating

Are you bored? Are you stressed? Are you emotional? Or, are you actually hungry? Be mindful of why you’re eating. Sometimes if your emotions are at an all-time high, this can cause you to mindlessly eat, often for comfort, causing you to consume calories that you don’t need. Especially since comfort snacks are often carb and sugar loaded. In any case, try to replace your regular snacks with “healthier” snacks, like fresh fruits, veggies, and so much more. Some tasty options include:

  • Carrots, Celery, Cucumbers, or Sweet Mini Peppers with Hummus
  • Berries and Cottage Cheese
  • Veggies and Guacamole
  • Apple Slices and Peanut Butter
  • Mixed Nuts: Almonds, Cashews, Peanut, Pistachios, etc.
    • Moderation is key here because, as tasty as nuts are, they are calorie dense.
  • String Cheese
  • Hard Boiled Eggs
  • Vegetable Chips: Kale Chips, Beet Chips, Chickpea Puffs
  • Nonfat Plain Greek Yogurt with Fresh Fruit
  • Kashi Snack Bars

You can find additional healthy snack options here or here. Remember, one bad meal won’t destroy your diet and one healthy meal won’t make you healthy. Moderation and consistency is key. A good trick to help with food moderation is a calorie counting app like MyFitnessPal and many others. This will allow you to watch your nutrition, such as intake of sugars, fats, proteins, carbs, and vitamins!

Eat Your Veggies!

Your mom’s voice may have just reverberated in your mind, but she may have been onto something. Vegetables have so many nutritional benefits because they are packed with vitamins, proteins, minerals, and fiber! So many vegetables provide your body with necessary iron, vitamins A, C, K, and proteins. Additionally, if you’re trying to lose weight, the amount of fiber within these vegetables cause you to feel fuller, longer! Some very tasty, nutrition packed veggies include:

Image courtesy of Meme Center
  • Spinach
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Squashes
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Mushrooms
  • Artichokes
  • Broccoli
  • Edamame
  • Carrots

For specific facts about what each vegetable has to offer, visit Natural Food Benefits.


Read Nutrition Labels

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One of the biggest benefits when you’re trying to eat healthy is reading the nutrition labels on your food. Being conscious of what you’re eating allows you to take control of your healthy decisions. When deciding which food product to buy, you can compare the nutrition labels and ask yourself: which product has the most calories? Which product has the most sugar? Which product has the most fat? etc. Additionally, reading nutrition labels can help you avoid dangerous food addictive ingredients such as:

  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • MSG
  • Partially Hydrogenated Oil
  • And many others!
    • More information about these ingredients can be found at Men’s Fitness.
  • Pro-tip: When considering the amount of sugar in your yogurt, anything 13 grams of sugar or less are naturally occurring. Anything above 13 grams of sugar are sugars that have been added by the yogurt company.

Drink More Water

Especially living in a dry climate, drink as much water as humanly possible. It is recommended for a person to drink about a gallon of water a day. A tip to drinking more water is to carry a refillable water bottle with you. This will allow you the opportunity to sip on it throughout the day. Drinking water can benefit you by:

  • Increasing your metabolism
  • Promoting natural detox
  • Improving your skin
  • Boosting your immune system and assisting in body homeostasis
  • Alleviating cramps
    • Pro-tip: Drink half a glass of water before you eat, and continue drinking it while you eat. This will allow you to feel fuller faster. Check out more informat

For more information, check out Mind Body Green.

I will say that “healthy” is a relative term; whereas my definition of living a healthy lifestyle could vary a little from someone else’s, this means you get to personalize your healthy lifestyle. This is your journey, take it at a pace that suits your lifestyle and your goals. Either way, what you eat is an investment in your health. Choose wisely.

There are LOTS of ways to live a healthy lifestyle and if you’re really wanting to make a change, I suggest any of the following articles:

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