Students climb the "Million Dollar Stairs" in Athens, Georgia, Thursday, February 23, 2017. (Photo/Austin Steele, info@asteelephoto.us)

As the weather turns in Athens, avoiding putting on the extra few pounds from holiday treats and festive drinks becomes quite a challenge. However, there are some simple lifestyle tips to form healthier habits to keep you in shape this holiday season. The Red & Black has put together a list of meal tricks and lifestyle hacks to help you live your healthiest life year round.

Pack your lunch

While your mom might not be there to do it for you, packing your lunch can significantly alter your daily caloric intake. And while Chick-fil-A is widely accessible on campus, a chicken sandwich and fries meal has approximately 800 calories, not including a drink or any sauces. Stick to classics like PB&J on whole wheat bread or a turkey wrap on spinach tortilla for proper protein and healthy fats that won’t take you over half of your calorie limit for the day. 

Attend fitness classes

The Ramsey Student Center on campus offers a variety of group fitness classes throughout the year ranging from Zumba and cycling to yoga and barre. Now,  students can get an unlimited pass to all group fitness classes for $67.50. Additionally, Ramsey puts on a free week of classes for all students during the week of finals. If you are looking for a way to get in the gym with friends or to step out of your comfort zone, try a few fitness classes. 

Take the stairs 

A lot of students avoid taking the stairs, waiting in the Miller Learning Center, Science Learning Center and Tate Student Center for the elevator to take them up two or three flights. But taking the stairs will save you more than just a wait. Taking the stairs not only improves balance, but is a low-impact cardio workout that also lowers mortality risk, according to a 2019 U.S. News article. Rather than spend precious time waiting around or planning a time to squeeze in a 30 minute walk, just simply take the stairs. 

Plan your meals and track your macros 

Keeping organized in class can help you be the best student possible. Why not organize your meals too and make the healthiest choices possible so you can ultimately be successful in your fitness aspirations? Planning meals ahead of time will save you money, time and stress for the week. Freezing proteins and dethawing before leaving for class can allow you to have a set idea of your dinner for that evening and an obligation to not let it go to waste. 

Tracking macros can also get you excited for your meals while ensuring a balanced level of proteins, fats, and carbs throughout your day. Apps like MyFitnessPal and MyPlate Calorie Counter can help you scan in your meals and keep track. 

Find healthy cooking alternatives

Rather than follow a fad diet or cut out treats entirely, find ways to substitute ingredients that may make dishes more calorically dense or fattening. With the holidays well on their way, finding healthier recipes is essential to keeping in shape. There are thousands of healthy cooking alternative recipes out there, but a few quick swaps such as olive oil rather than butter, applesauce or greek yogurt instead of sour cream, and english muffins instead of bagels, can make a world of a difference. Trying soy milk or almond milk instead of 2% milk in your coffee or hot cocoa can also keep an eye on fat levels and inflammation.  

Add flavor to your dishes

Simply finding a good dressing or sauce can change the complexity of your entire dish. Trader Joe’s has a plentiful array of dressing, with their Green Goddess Salad Dressing as a spotlight. This sauce clocks in at only 20calories a 2-tablespoon serving and can be put on proteins like chicken or steak or used to dress a salad. 

Using spices like mesquite flavoring or herbes de Provence are cheap and easy ways to add immense flavor and transform items like whole wheat pasta or grilled sirloin. For a smoky, faux grilled flavor, mesquite spice rub can make anyone believe you fired up the barbecue

Find healthier menu alternatives at local restaurants 

Sometimes eating out in Athens is inevitable, but no worries, there are plenty of healthy options available at Southern gems like Mama’s Boy or The Grit. In fact, the entire menu at The Grit is vegetarian, offering a wide selection of menu options catering natural meals at reasonable prices. Subbing egg whites and a side of fruit instead of grits allows for a much lower carb and lower calorie meal. Options like the low calorie breakfast at Mama’s Boy and the veggie omelette at The Grit are safe choices for your next game day brunch.


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