Healthy eating when you’re a college student sometimes seems virtually impossible. Between a busy schedule of school, homework, studying, part-time jobs and a social life, and the fact that you’re living on a very tight budget, all too often you wind up eating greasy food at the cafeteria or cooking sodium-laden ramen of no nutritional value (because at least it only costs a few cents per pack). However, college living can include healthy foods with a minimal amount of effort.
Buy Frozen Fruits and Vegetables
While you should avoid frozen meals, as even the healthiest selections are loaded with unhealthy amounts of sodium, buying frozen fruits and vegetables is a smart way to include healthy eating in college life. Although fresh fruits and vegetables, like those in the organic foods aisle, are usually the most nutritional, frozen vegetables and fruits are flash-frozen right after picking and maintain most of their nutrients–and without preservatives or additional sugars and sodium at that (which is not the case with canned produce).
Frozen fruits and vegetables are often available in bulk on sale, so you can stop up on several pounds for just a few dollars–much less than you would spend on fresh fruit and vegetables, particularly if the produce is out of season.
Make Your Own Sandwiches for Lunch
Don’t get fast food or cafeteria dishes for lunch, as these unhealthy meals may seem cheap, but the costs add up quickly. An inexpensive healthy eating meal you can have nearly every day for lunch is a sandwich. Once a week, stock up on any of these healthier ingredients so that you can make a variety of sandwiches that won’t leave you bored:
- Whole grain, wheat, sourdough or multigrain bread (look for those in the organic foods aisle if possible)
- Wheat tortillas or flatbread
- Cold cuts (turkey, ham, roast beef, chicken)
- Canned tuna, salmon or chicken
- Low-fat vinaigrette
- Cream cheese
- Herb spread
- Low-fat salsa
- Low-fat mayonnaise (use sparingly)
- Low-fat sliced or ground cheese (use sparingly)
Buy in Bulk–But Buy the Right Stuff
If there’s a warehouse store or club in your college neighborhood, shop there at least once a month to stock up on foods in bulk. Even if the store charges a membership fee, if you shop there frequently, you’ll save a lot more money in the long run. Just be sure to pick out healthy snacks (granola, nuts, trail mix, etc.) and easy-to-make and good-for-you foods, like frozen fish, low-fat soups and pastas.
Shop Organic When You Can
Organic foods are some of the healthiest foods available because they’re free of preservatives and unhealthy additives–but they can be much more expensive than the typical grocery fare. Watch for sales and search online for coupons so that you can buy organic foods at the best price. Healthy eating is worth paying a little extra; stock up on organic snacks and choose dried fruit, nuts, whole grain crackers and the like in lieu of potato chips, pastries, candy and other junk food.
Healthy eating and college life don’t always go together–but they can, with only a little effort on your part. Choosing the easiest dining option will lead to an unhealthy and expensive life style you won’t always be able to sustain. Start eating right in college and you’ll pave the way for a healthier future.