Healthy eating tips for study abroad trips … by Shelly Stinson

A portrait of a mixed race college student studying at campus

Studying abroad is a great way to experience some of what life has to offer beyond the boundaries of your hometown, and even your home country. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to see how other people live, work, and socialize. But if you aren’t careful, it can also give you something else: a larger waistline.

Studying in general has the ability to make you gain weight. One piece of research published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism found that almost 70% of the 131 students involved in the study gained weight over their four-year university stay. In this case study, researchers found that male students fared worse than female students, but both groups ultimately reported higher weight, body fat, and measurements by the time they earned their degree.

similar study found nearly identical results, citing that the high level of weight gain is likely because of “tremendous life change, including stresses related to increased academic pressures, change in peer and family social support, and opportunities to participate in risky behaviours, such as alcohol and drug use.” Well, the same could definitely be said about studying abroad as it compounds each of these issues even more.

This makes gaining unwanted (and unhealthy) weight while studying abroad almost unavoidable unless you take some sort of action to combat it. One option is to eat more healthily while you’re learning about new cultures and seeing new lands—but how do you do that?

Here are five tips to help you:

  • Practice moderation. When you’re exposed to new foods that you’ve never tasted before, it can be very easy to tell yourself that it’s OK to overdo it because you may never have access to those foods again. However, if you allow yourself to taste all of the foods you want to taste in smaller portions, you get the same positive experience without the potential weight gain.
  • Eat a lot of veggies. Depending on where you’re studying, the local favourite dishes may or may not contain a lot of vegetables. If they do, then those are great options to eat more of since this food group is healthier and loaded with a ton of vitamins and minerals. If they don’t, try to choose meals or side dishes that contain more veggies and you’ll fill your tummy without adding unnecessary calories.
  • Create a ‘Treat Day’. In a College Newsarticle titled “5 Integrative Nutrition Tips for Avoiding The “Freshman 15”, the author suggests allowing yourself certain days to eat whatever you like. This enables you to taste some of the local fare that you’ve been eyeing without making each and every day a calorie-fest that ultimately increases your pant size. Plus, it helps you feel not so deprived, which can ultimately cause you to binge on food until you feel so full that you’re uncomfortable and can’t enjoy your time away.
  • Pay attention to how the foods make you feel. It’s super easy to eat a lot of unhealthy foods when you’re not in your usual surroundings, but you may find that you eat less of them if you just pay attention to how you feel after eating them. For instance, some foods are heavy and tend to make you sleepy while others give you energy and make you feel more alive. Which would you rather have when you’re in a new area and want to see as much of it as possible?
  • Remember why you’re there. Sure, enjoying some of the native foods and cuisine may be one of the reasons you’re studying abroad, but it surely isn’t the only reason. Therefore, instead of focusing on the foods and trying to eat as many of them as you can, remember the main reasons you chose to study in that particular location and concentrate on those instead. After all, once your time abroad is complete, don’t you want to remember all of the wonderful things you saw and learned as opposed to all of the times you ate way more than you should have?

Follow these five tips and you’ll be able to return from your study abroad with many great things – none of which involves a higher weight.


About the Author: Katie Idle

About our business, Study and Go Abroad is the 'go to' site for Canadians looking to study abroad, travel, intern or volunteer. We organize fairs twice a year in various cities in Canada, and I'd recommend getting down to one of them to check out all the exciting options. As for me, I'm a business woman and a travel junkie! I have always had a passion for travel and for experiencing new cultures. Brought up in England, I traveled Europe in my teens and early 20s. I have lived and worked on 3 continents; Europe, Africa and North America. I have traveled extensively worldwide both for work and for fun - and still can't believe how much of the world there is still to see!

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