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The Importance of Maintaining a Healthy Diet While Studying Abroad

For many students, studying abroad presents the opportunity of a lifetime. You might travel throughout the rest of your life, but spending a semester or two in a different country gives you the chance to fully immerse yourself in a new culture. 

So, it should be no surprise as to why your diet may stray from what you typically eat at home. Indulging in different cultural dishes is part of the experience, and is absolutely something you should enjoy. But, when you combine those indulgences with rushing between travels and studies, the stress of being away from home and staying on top of your education, and feeling a little lost in a new country, you might run into a problem. 

All of that stress can cause you to over-indulge, or stop paying attention to the healthy habits you may have at home. 

You don’t need to fall victim to the “Study Abroad 15” if you don’t want to. While you shouldn’t deprive yourself of cultural delicacies, it’s important to strike a balance so you can maintain a healthy lifestyle. 

How can you do that? Furthermore, why does it matter? 

Eating Well for the Sake of Your Health

You’re not going to study in France and deprive yourself of croissants. 

You’re not going to spend a semester in Italy and not try the world’s greatest pasta dishes. 

But, finding a healthy balance in your diet should be a priority for the sake of your physical and mental health. 

For starters, if you have any underlying conditions, like GERD (acid reflux disease), eating the wrong things can exacerbate your symptoms and make your experience abroad an unpleasant one. Those symptoms include

  • Heartburn
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Gas
  • Chest pain
  • Bloating

Even if you don’t have any digestive issues or other health conditions, “you are what you eat” when it comes to things like energy levels and stress. 

Food can absolutely affect your mood. Ingredients like sugar and carbohydrates can make your mood fluctuate, going up and down throughout the day and often making you feel tired and worn down. 

What you eat can also impact how successful you are while you’re abroad. Eating unhealthy foods can actually make you less productive. You’ll be easily distracted, more tired, and find it harder to focus. On the other hand, healthy foods like fruits and vegetables and lean proteins will energize your body the right way, so you can stay on top of your schoolwork while getting in some sightseeing and attractions on a regular basis. 

Developing Healthy Habits That Will Last a Lifetime

Another reason it’s so important to focus on a healthy diet now is that it’s a time of your life that will shape your future. 

You will learn so much more in your collegiate years than you might expect, and not everything will come from your textbooks. College is a wonderful time to discover who you are and learn some valuable life lessons, including things like: 

  • Time management
  • Self-care
  • Proper communication
  • Responsibility
  • Discipline

While you can certainly change your habits throughout your lifetime, making a commitment to health and wellness now will make it easier to continue those habits in a post-grad world, especially in stressful situations like trying to find a job or living on your own for the first time. In addition to eating well while you’re abroad, make things like getting enough sleep and exercising regularly important parts of your wellness routine. In doing so, you’ll create positive habits that will stay with you long after college. 

How to Stay Healthy in a Different Country

With so many delicious temptations, a busy schedule, and the desire to have fun and enjoy your college experience, how can you stay healthy and eat right? It’s easier than you might think. It just takes a bit of motivation and discipline, which are great skills to start honing now, skills you can use in the future. Try some of the following tips to stay in shape

  • Work out first thing in the morning
  • Find a workout buddy to hold you accountable
  • Eat your meals earlier
  • Cook for yourself using local ingredients
  • Avoid drinking too much

Don’t deprive yourself when you’re somewhere new. Food is an integral part of almost every culture, and you deserve to experience it. But, you’ll enjoy those unique foods and indulgent dishes so much more if you only have them once in a while. When you find a food that is sincerely special, you’ll enjoy it and savor it more if you “save” it for special occasions or as a treat to enjoy once a week, instead of every day. 

By striking that balance, you’ll stay healthier abroad, have more energy to enjoy those once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and come home feeling great, looking great, and with healthy habits attached to your lifestyle. These habits will help you through the rest of your collegiate career and beyond.

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