4 Tips for Staying Healthy While Studying Abroad

Studying abroad for a semester is truly a once in a lifetime experience. I still have plenty of time left in Florence, yet I’m already sad that all this will come to an end in December. Note– by “all this” I mean living in a magical city, eating ridiculously delicious food, drinking wine with every meal, traveling around Europe each weekend, etc. etc. Safe to say “studying” is definitely not the point of study abroad.            

Because it often feels like I’m on vacation for the semester, it’s easy to have a vacation mindset. However, that can be lethal, seeing as I’m living in a country where the main food groups are pizza, pasta, wine, and, of course, gelato. ILY, Italy, but I’m not trying to roll off this place, come December. Indeed, one of the challenges of studying abroad is managing to keep a balanced diet while still embracing the culture of your host country. But if you implement these five, easy tips into your daily routine, no longer will you have to worry about fork lifting yourself back to the states. 

1.  Eat breakfast at home

In most European cities, especially Florence, a typical breakfast consists of a croissant or some other sugar-laden pastry and a cappuccino. Rather than basically having a piece of cake for breakfast, I recommend buying groceries and having breakfast at home. You’ll end up saving money and calories. For example, most grocery stores have Fage Greek yogurt, which is chock-full of protein, minus the added sugar. As for coffee, aka the most important part of your morning, find a cafe that has non-dairy milk options such as soy, almond, or rice milk, and skip the sugar that the barista will offer you. Pro tip- add berries, honey, and dried fruit to your yogurt so you don’t end up needing sugar in your coffee.

2. Get Gelato frequently, just in a small cup

If you’re not getting gelato on the reg, you’re doing abroad wrong. Gelato is slightly healthier than typical ice cream since it uses more milk than cream, which means less fat. While having gelato every single day could be detrimental to your pants fitting, it’s totally fine to have it several days a week as long as you have it in moderation. Most gelato shops have several different size cups and cones to choose from, so if gelato is a regular part of your diet, opt for the smaller cups for about 1.50-2.50 euro. If your consumption is more of a once-a-week deal, then obviously you deserve the massive 5 euro cup or a waffle cone dipped in Nutella. Don’t miss out on all the delicious gelato Italy has to offer, just be sure to remember moderation.

3. Walk everywhere

Like many European cities, Florence is a walkable city. Hence how the Italians stay so thin, despite their pizza/pasta-based diets. By walking or biking everywhere and exploring your city entirely by foot, it allows all the bread, cheese, gelato, and wine to “come out in the wash.” You can go on the elliptical when you’re back in the US. While you’re abroad, you should try to walk, run, or bike everywhere, then you can feel less guilty about that third glass of wine…or sixth, no judgment.

4. Splurge on the weekends

Most people who study abroad in Europe take tons of weekend trips. I’ve already been to Cinque terra, the Amalfi Coast, Croatia, and Munich (RIP Oktoberfest), to name a few. Because it can be hard to stay healthy when you’re traveling, and you want to enjoy the cuisine of the places you’re visiting, I suggest eating in your apartment/dorm Monday through Thursday. This way, you’re guaranteed to eat healthy 70% of the week (not to mention save money), so when the weekend comes you can truly indulge, sans guilt.  Go ahead and order all the paella, schnitzel, calzones, gnocchi, escargot, spaghetti, or whatever else your heart and belly desire because YOGO (you only go abroad once).