A packed schedule, dining hall food, the lack of a kitchen…the obstacles to healthy eating for college students can seem daunting. You don’t have the cash to spend on good food, or the time to prepare it.
But without healthy food, you will crash and burn, without the energy for long study sessions, workouts, or late-night socializing.
Here are a few tips that can help you navigate the potential land-mines of eating healthy on a college budget.
1. Eat plain food like chicken
The possibilities for foods like chicken or tofu are endless. You can prepare or season them in all kinds of different ways to add some variety to your diet. These foods are good quality but inexpensive too.
2. Limit beverages to water and tea
It seems that soda and juice are everywhere! But these drinks are full of sugar and empty calories. If you find them too tempting, try mixing them with water or ice until you’ve managed to taper off. Try to limit your intake of alcoholic beverages too.
3. Learn how to stir fry
The great thing about stir fry is that it’s easy to do, and you can just throw in whatever you happen to have on hand. This can be a cost-saving way to use up leftover ingredients. All you need is a frying pan, a pot, and a stove. Keep some vegetable oil, soy sauce, and stir fry seasoning on hand, and then just throw in your favorite veggies and enjoy.
4. There’s nothing wrong with beans and rice
Beans are inexpensive and crammed with protein and fiber, and combining them with rice will go far in satisfying your craving for comfort food. For an even healthier and more cost-effective option, try using dried beans instead of canned. All you need to do is soak them overnight.
5. Don’t be afraid to make special requests of the dining hall staff
It’s definitely a challenge to eat healthy when you’re on a meal plan! But the dining hall staff is accustomed to fielding requests for healthier options, and in some cases they’re even required to do so. Just be polite and friendly. You can ask for ingredients to prepare on your own, or simply ask for a partial item, such as the meatballs from the spaghetti meal.
6. Add nut butters to your diet
There are so many different kinds. When you’re tired of peanut butter, experiment with almond or sunflower seed butter instead. Carry some around with you so you can eat it on crackers, pretzels, or even just from a spoon.
7. Choose whole grain cereal
Cereal is a staple of a college student’s diet, so it’s worth it to choose a kind that will actually satisfy. Sugared cereal may taste good, but it will just leave you still hungry. Choose a whole grain cereal with less than 10 grams of sugar, and add fruit if you crave more flavor.
With a little discipline and planning, you don’t have to succumb to a diet composed of dining hall pizza and Pop Tarts. It is possible to nourish your body and your budget at the same time.