For many college students, being away from home can be daunting. This newfound freedom can lead to decisions that aren’t always the healthiest. Check out the tips below to help make your college experience happy and healthy.

Maintain a Healthy Diet

Draw up an eating plan that is balanced and includes fruits and vegetables. Avoid saturated fat, sugars, trans fats, and excess sodium. Pay attention to labels and avoid those drinks that add extra sugars and calories to your diet. Avoid taking caffeine and sugar for energy. If you need an energy boost, try adding more protein and fiber to your diet.

Keep Moving

It is important that you stay physically active in college. Adults need at least 2 and a half hours of physical activity each week. This can help prevent weight gain and decreases your risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.

Don’t Smoke

Per the CDC, among smokers, almost 99 percent first tried smoking by the age of 26. Smoking harms your body in a myriad of ways and the best way to prevent damage to your organs is to not start in the first place.

Avoid Substance Abuse

Be aware of the dangers of binge drinking and limit your alcohol intake. Binge drinking increases your likelihood for performing risky and unhealthy behavior. Binge drinking is considered drinking five or more drinks for men or four or more drinks for women in a short period of time. Avoid illegal drugs as they can not only get you in trouble but can lead to addiction and many health issues.

Manage Stress

Balancing your personal life, work, and school work on your own can be quite stressful. It is important that you take steps to make sure you can handle all that’s on your plate. Make sure you are well rested and get 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Find time to relax. Set time aside in your schedule to do things you enjoy and that calm you down. If you are feeling overwhelmed talk to someone you trust, visit your college health center, or contact an outside clinic that can help.

Avoid Sickness

Wash your hands regularly, drink plenty of water, maintain regular checkups with a doctor, dentist, and optometrist because illness spreads easily on a college campus.

For most, college is a great experience. It’s a time for making new friends, finding new skills and interests, and helping advance your future career. If you take the right steps to protect your health it can be all the more enjoyable.

Tyler Glidden is the wellness director for the McPherson Family YMCA.