By: Alyssa “T.I.” Soluren, Staff writer

Are you on the meal plan for the semester and afraid that you will gain the “Freshman 15”? Often times, eating a healthy diet is challenging for college students due to time restrictions, and in many cases bad eating habits may develop. Eating a balanced diet ensures that you stay healthy and function better physically and mentally.

Here are some easy suggestions that will help you maintain your weight and a balanced diet during the semester.

1. Never skip meals. Always make time to eat three meals a day because food is an important staple for brain functions. If you are in a hurry, grab something quick and easy such as a fruit or a sandwich.

2. When deciding what foods you should eat, always go for color. Fruits and vegetables add color to your plate and ensure that you are receiving a sufficient amount of nutrients.

3. Choose whole grains rather than refined grains. Whole grains contain more vitamins, minerals and fiber than refined grains, such as white bread.

4. Choose healthier fast food options. If ordering a salad, try to choose a low-fat or vinaigrette dressing. Choose leaner meats on sandwiches and low-fat or skim milk cheeses for pizza. Substitute a baked potato for french fries.

5. Keep nuts, dried or canned fruit, pretzels, wheat crackers and yogurt in reach. These snacks are a better option than chips, candy and ice cream.

6. Drink plenty of water. Make sure you drink more water than soda or fruit juices. To establish this habit, carry a water bottle with you.