With a new academic year upon us, it’s once again time for Greatist to round up the 25 healthiest colleges in America. These schools go the extra mile to create campus environments that nurture and educate students about healthy eating practices, provide excellent medical and mental health services and programs, and offer lots of opportunities to get and stay physically fit. For details about how our ranking process worked, scroll to the end of the list.
Note: This is presented in no particular order!
1. Clemson University
Conscious eaters and health-aware students will feel right at home at Clemson University, which provides complete nutritional information for the meals served in each of the campus’s dining halls. The school is also committed to providing meals that feature fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein, making it that much easier to maintain a healthy diet. Clemson additionally offers wellness resources for students, including nutrition programs and two apps that provide nutritional info about dining hall food. The university also provides around-the-clock counseling and sexual violence prevention services. Finally, the campus fitness center offers personal training, group fitness classes, fitness assessments, and boot camp. Outdoorsy fitness seekers can check out trips and instructional programs in hiking, rock climbing, river running, kayaking, and more.
2. Columbia University
With complete nutritional information for dining hall food, options for special diets (vegan, kosher, halal, food allergies, etc.), and locally-sourced produce, baked goods, and GMO-free milk, Columbia’s dining services have something for health-minded foodies of all stripes. Columbia’s health services include support and resources for LGBTQ sexual health, smoking cessation, improving sleep, HIV testing and treatment, support and outreach for survivors of sexual assault, and staple mental health services like individual and group counseling and special mental health prorgams for students with eating disorders and ADHD. The university's Alice! Health Promotion offers tons of resources on everything from birth control education to resources for stress management and sleep disorders. Columbia earned second place in Trojan’s Sexual Health Report Card Rankings, meaning it’s at the top of the heap when it comes to offering sexual health-related services. For those interested in getting and staying fit, group classes, personal training, intramural sports keep students moving.
3. Brown University
Brown offers dining options for a diverse array of diets, and the campus fitness center provides programming for students pursuing both group and individual fitness. The university really shines, however, when it comes to its health services. Brown earned fifth place in Trojan’s Sexual Health Report Card Rankings for 2013 for its sexual health-related services and programs like LGB- and transgender-friendly healthcare and STI testing. The school’s psych and counseling services are on point, too: They offer crisis intervention, group therapy, and support tailored specifically to sexual assault survivors.
4. University of California at Santa Barbara
It’s hard to beat the natural beauty of the University of California at Santa Barbara’s campus: 1,000-plus acres with miles of coastline along the Pacific Ocean against of a backdrop of mountains in Los Padres National Park. The students at UCSB are able to take advantage of the nature that lies at their finger tips through the school’s adventure programs. Trips include kayaking to Santa Cruz Island, backpacking in Yosemite, and canoeing on the Colorado River. The school is also known for its bike culture, meaning it's easy to remain active back on campus, too. And if students find themselves stressed out by coursework, they can reserve egg or massage chairs in the university’s counseling and psychological services building.
5. University of Denver
The group fitness classes at the University of Denver’s recreation center rival those offered by high-end gyms. Students can try out cycling, yoga, pilates, and bodyweight classes with names like Power Sculpt, Core-Uption, and Body Blitz. Staying healthy isn’t just about physical fitness at the University of Denver, though. The university’s health and counseling center has a health promotion division. The division’s flagship program, Healthy Peer Empowerment (HYPE), trains interested students on specific health-related topics, such as alcohol, tobacco, sleep problems, and sexual health. HYPE’s success stems from the fact that students are more likely to seek out help or advice from a friend than make a visit to health or mental services available on campus.
6. University of Missouri at Columbia
Photo courtesy of MizzouRec Services & Facilities
With a focus on sustainability at campus dining halls, students at the University of Missouri can feel good about the food they’re being served. The school’s Earthright program works with area farmers to deliver locally-grown produce, beef, milk, and cheese to dining halls. Dining services also set up a composting program with a local farm, which includes food scraps and fryer oil. On the wellness front, Mizzou knows the importance of offering opportunities for R&R to counterbalance students’ packed schedules and course loads. Students can visit zouLIFE, a fully-functioning spa in the campus rec center for skin care, nail care, massages, personal training, nutrition consultations, and fitness assessments.
7. University of Pittsburgh
It’s easy to keep a good fitness routine, or just blow off steam after class, at the University of Pittsburgh. More than two-thirds of all residence halls have 24-hour fitness centers with cardio equipment and weight machines. After working up a post-workout appetite, students can head to one of the nearly two-dozen dining facilities where the focus is on sustainability. Dining services donates fryer oil to a local company, utilizes sustainable cleaning products, and strive to source food locally. On the health side, the University offers robust on-campus services—from primary care to an easy-to-access pharmacy— and has specific health programs focused on LGBT and transgender health.
8. Vanderbilt University
Students at Vanderbilt University get to choose from a plentiful amount of food offerings that are enough to make any health-food blogger envious. A sample menu includes roasted salmon with chipotle glaze, black bean and tomato quinoa, and sautéed Brussels sprouts and apricots. The university also offers special menu items for dietary restrictions including vegetarian, vegan, halal, kosher, and many food allergies. Students looking to stay in shape have nearly a dozen classes to choose from on any weekday, including Turbokick, Zumba, and Ballet Sculpt, all in the campus recreation center. The rec center is also home to a wellness center that strives to address seven areas of wellness: environmental, intellectual, emotional, physical, social, spiritual, and occupational. The wellness center spearheads health-related programs, like their online nutrition corner and a Biggest Winner competition, in which students work to reach personal health and fitness goals.
9. Claremont McKenna College
Claremont McKenna’s dining services have long committed to serving nutritious meals: everything is made from scratch, dining halls serve only reasonable portions (based on USDA dietary guidelines) and hormone-free dairy, locally sourced produce, and humanely-raised meats are de rigueur. The campus’s brand new fitness center, set to open in Fall 2016, will be a fitness fantasy land. It will be home to a 10,000-square foot fitness studio with state-of-the-art equipment and machines for weight training and cardio. Bonus: Chilled hydration stations will be located throughout the facility, which come in handy since 70 percent of all students participate in at least one intramural event each year. Claremont McKenna is a dream come true for both foodies and exercise nuts!
10. Pennsylvania State University
Penn State’s commitment to healthful food options means extensive salad bars, smaller portions, complete nutritional info available for meals, and an educational program that helps students make healthier food choices. Campus health services offer comprehensive medical care from physicians. Counseling services are available for students who need help with stress management, sexual and relationship violence, group therapy, and crisis intervention. In addition to the medical care and counseling available, the university is also home to a separate office for health promotion and wellness, which provides resources and education on sexual health, smoking cessation, drugs and alcohol, fitness and nutrition, and eating disorders. During the academic year, the school offers a race, run, or walk almost every weekend. Anyone who needs to chill should visit the campus "De-Stress Zone,” which features biofeedback programs and soundtracks to help students rest and relax.
11. Scripps College
If you wanted to pass on the Tuscan chopped or golden raisin quinoa salads, have a go at the gluten-free asparagus and shitake mushroom frittata. Or maybe the allergy-free boneless pork bottom with oven-roasted rosemary red potatoes and fresh broccoli is more your speed? If not, the vegan General Tso's tofu stir fry will be just perfect. In short, no matter your dietary restrictions or preferences, you’ll be eating like healthy royalty at Scripps. This is a good thing because you’ll need the energy to swim in the outdoor pool that’s heated year-round, lift in the full-service weight room, do some sprints on the outdoor track, and drop in on a few group fitness classes. Delicious, healthy food, and all the fitness opportunities we can handle? Dreams really do come true.
12. University of Massachusetts at Amherst
For many incoming students, college is the first time that they’ll find themselves making their own choices for diet and exercise. That’s why UMass Amherst created UFIT, a 10-week program designed to help foster a healthy lifestyle in an environment focused on positive peer motivation. Students who take the class receive a pedometer and fitness log and participate in discussions about exercise, nutrition, and healthy living. This is just one of the more than 100 fitness classes offered weekly at the recreation center. UMass doesn’t skimp when it comes to food, either. The school was ranked second on Princeton Review’s list of best campus food this year. Students can feel good about where there food is coming from, too. Nearly a third of the produce is sourced locally, and UMass just became the largest food service provider in higher education to sign on to the Real Food Challenge, which aims to shift university budgets away from industrially-farmed food to locally-sourced goods.
13. University of Chicago
The dining options available at the University of Chicago give a whole new meaning to sustainable food. Most bread, cheese, and fish are sourced locally; eggs are cage-free and the coffee is fair trade; dining services also support minority and women-owned businesses. Plus, students get to eat in dining halls that look like they could be straight out of Hogwarts. Students at this academically-rigorous university often find themselves busy by the pulls of coursework and extracurricular activities, so the Student Counseling Service sponsors a weekly “Let’s Talk” series where students can drop by and speak to a counselor without an appointment.
14. University of Iowa
The recreation facilities at the University of Iowa are fit for a five-star resort. Students can enjoy a climbing wall, 50-meter swimming pool, diving well, indoor jogging track, basketball and volleyball courts, and plentiful cardio equipment and weight machines. And did we mention there’s an indoor lazy river? The rec center is also home to Student Health and Wellness, which offers one-on-one consultations for students looking to learn more about fitness, nutrition, stress management, tobacco cessation, alcohol and drug use, and sexual health. The focus on student wellness doesn’t end at the Student Health and Wellness center, either. If students find themselves struggling academically, the University Counseling Services has lots of academic study skills groups which cover topics on learning styles, motivation and goal setting, tips for managing ADHD, test anxiety management, and time management.
15. Bowdoin College
Bowdoin has been recognized by students and national organizations alike for the exceptional food available in its dining halls, from comfort food classics to truly gourmet offerings. Ingredients are sourced from local farmers’ markets and the campus has its own butcher. Bowdoin is as serious about wellness as it is about its food. When it comes to mental health, Bowdoin offers “mind/body/spirit-oriented” programming in topics like acupuncture, reflexology, and massage. As for physical fitness, students can work out in facilities fully equipped for both cardio and weight training. Group classes and intramurals round out the options for ways to stay active on campus.
16. Louisiana State University
Students at LSU are empowered to make informed food choices thanks to the comprehensive nutrition information available about all food items served, as well as notations for food that is allergen-free, reasonably portioned, and balanced in nutrients. The campus health center offers complete medical care as well as comprehensive mental health services, including crisis intervention and many options for group therapy (each group aimed at a specific populations or issue). The cherry on top at LSU is the campus fitness center, which offers fitness assessments, personal training, group classes, and clinics in outdoor activities like rock climbing, canoeing, and kayaking. No matter how you like to move, chances are LSU has something for you.
17. Stanford University
Stanford’s comprehensive wellness initiative means that students have access to a variety of hormone-free meals, vegan and vegetarian options, lots of healthy dishes, and education about where their food comes from. Through its campus fitness center, Stanford offers unlimited wellness and physical education classes, personal training, and tons of group fitness classes including rock climbing, yoga, TRX, and cycling. Stanford is also fully committed to keeping its students healthy, both physically and emotionally. Campus health services offer support and programming for stress management, sexual health, nutrition and body image, STI screening, and healthcare for men, women, and transgender students. From food and fitness to mental health and overall wellness, Stanford is the place to be for one of the healthiest college experiences around!
18. University of Georgia
Take one look at the dining options available at the University of Georgia, and it’s no surprise why the school earned an A+ for campus food on College Prowler. Students looking for healthy options can just follow the “Bone-i-Fied Good” icon. One sample menu included Portabello mushroom Parmesan, gazpacho salad, and bean and soy chili. The school also offers robust nutrition services, including consulting for students with dietary restrictions, classes taught by a nutritionist, and the Build Your Plate program, which allows students on desktop or mobile devices to view the meal options on any given day, build a virtual plate, and assess its nutritional value. On the medical side, the university’s health services are truly a one-stop shop for all students’ needs. The health center offers medical, dental, and eye clinics, physical therapy, therapeutic massage, counseling and psychiatric services, and a pharmacy.
19. Virginia Tech
For more than a decade, Virginia Tech has made it easy for students to take a holistic approach to healthy eating through the school’s You’re Eating (and Living) Smarter (Y.E.S.). The Y.E.S. program begins in the dining halls with easy-to-follow icons that note dining options that have whole grains, high amounts of fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, and healthy protein. The program also jump started the Farm and Fields Project, which emphasizes sustainable, locally-sourced food in the dining halls, and includes an educational component with table cards on healthy eating topics in the dining halls, educational events, and presentations to student groups. Outside of the dining halls, students find it easy to remain health-focused at the campus recreation center, which offers more than 20 fitness classes every weekday, from sunrise Pilates to power yoga.
20. University of Arizona
The number of health and fitness options—group exercise, outdoor adventure, intramurals, and a ropes course—available to students at the University of Arizona makes it both easy and fun to be healthy. The focus on healthy living can also be found at Health Promotion and Preventative Services, housed in the University Health Service building. Health Promotion and Preventative Services offers programming on topics including nutrition, sexual health, and alcohol, tobacco, and drug use. Counseling and Psychological Services also offers many programs and group workshops to help students live healthy and balanced lives, such as the stress and anxiety management group, gender spectrum support group, and the healthy mind, healthy body group.
21. Whitman College
Students at Whitman College have plenty of opportunities to become one with nature in their four years on the idyllic campus in rural Washington state. Half of all incoming freshman partake in the school’s “Scramble” trips. These week-long trips place small groups of first-years under the guidance of experienced upperclassmen as they partake in outdoor activities including backpacking on nearby mountain ranges, canoeing, rock climbing, and whitewater rafting. Back on campus, 75 percent of students participate in intramural sports. The school also has a state-of-the-art climbing center and recently unveiled a bike-sharing program. Bikes that have been abandoned on campus are refurbished in the on-campus bike shop and then available for a 24-hour loan at the campus library. It’s just as easy as checking out a book!
22. Washington University at St. Louis
It’s easy for students to make healthy, informed meal options at the dining halls on campus at Washington University in St. Louis with the school's nutritional icons, which note the presence of ingredients like dairy, eggs, nuts, shellfish, soy, and wheat, as well as meals that are safe for vegan and vegetarian diets. The focus on healthy living continues at the university’s health and wellness center, where students find a one-stop shop for their medical needs with a specific focus on sexual health. Students can find services for women’s health, including the HPV vaccine, emergency contraception, and STI and HIV testing. The health and wellness center also includes the health promotion department, which offers lots of programming, including dine-with-a-dietician, a mindfulness bootcamp, and a stress-buster workshop.
23. The Ohio State University
No matter what your favorite fitness activity is, there’s a good chance you can do it at one of OSU’s seven on-campus fitness facilities. From group classes in yoga, suspension training, and cycling to intramural sports and outdoor adventure trips, there’s little you can’t do to get fit. Two mental health centers offer different kinds of therapy for individuals and couples, as well as nutritional counseling, crisis intervention, group therapy, and workshops that help people manage stress and prioritize wellness.
24. University of Texas at Austin
At UT Austin students can get their hands on meals that are free of, well, anything they want—from gluten and animal products to soy and dairy. A registered nutritionist is also available to discuss and educate students about food choices and nutrition. The university’s mental health services provide all kinds of services from individual counseling (aimed at specific populations or issues) to stress management, to the MindBody Lab, which teaches relaxation and meditation. The only downside to being someone who likes working out at UT Austin is having to choose from a seemingly endless supply of fitness activities and options. The school operates 29,000 acres of parkland, trails, and sports facilities, which host activities including climbing, swimming, lacrosse, and intramural sports. Students can also choose from more than 100 weekly fitness classes like cycling, Pilates, and Barre. That said, UT students find a way to choose: almost 90 percent of the student body participates in some kind of recreational sport. Not interested in muggle sports? Consider trying out for Texas Quidditch, the university’s quidditch team which, no big deal, won the 2013 International Quidditch Championship.
25. Yale University
Yale’s dining services accommodate dietary restrictions of all kinds, from vegan and vegetarian, to allergen-free, kosher, and halal. The campus fitness center (nicknamed “cathedral of sweat” for looking way more like a church than a gym) offers group fitness classes, squash courts, and facilities for both gymnastics and swimming. Anyone seeking off-the-beaten-path activities for fitness or outdoor recreation can venture off campus to visit some of the university-owned and operated facilities nearby, including a skating rink, golf course, indoor track, tennis center, and sailing facilities.
How We Ranked
We started with nominations from our readers through social media and reader suggestions from last year’s list. Then we scoured the web for any mention of schools with exceptional food, fitness facilities, health services, amazing health and fitness initiatives, and happy students. We also consulted The Princeton Review, Trojan’s Sexual Health Report Card, and the Jed Foundation (which helps colleges enhance mental health services), in addition to examining each school’s website to get the nitty gritty details.
From there, we scored each school for its dining services (and awards), fitness facilities, health services, happiness rankings, and health and fitness initiatives. Our scale took into account many criteria, including dining hall menus and sustainability of ingredients, the number of club and intramural sports, and fitness class offerings and accessibility. Finally, we whittled it down to the 25 schools you see here.
Of course, there’s no perfect way to generate a precise list for the simple fact that the definition of healthy can differ from person to person—locally-sourced food may be more important to some than state-of-the-art fitness facilities. We are confident in our extensively researched ranking system, but if this list is lacking a school you feel strongly belongs on it, please feel more than free to suggest colleges for next year’s ranking by emailing us.