It is commonly known and expected that the average first year college student will pack on more than a few pounds in their first two semesters. Eating healthy while in college is a challenge due to the stressful and fast paced lifestyle that most students lead. The ability to keep a balanced diet is compounded further by the fact that a student’s budget is usually very tight. The following are a few tips on how to make inexpensive, yet healthy meals while in college.
The most important aspect to healthy cooking is integrating a lot of fresh produce into every meal. Eating locally grown fruits and vegetables isn’t just great for your waistline and the environment; it is also one of the cheapest ways to buy the bulk of your food. Local farmers’ markets and farm stands are a great way to stretch your dollar when shopping for produce. Time your outings to these venues for later in the day and be sure to haggle and bargain with merchants. Most of the sellers don’t really want to lug their produce home at the end of the day, so they may be ready to sell it to you at drastically reduced prices.
Avoid Premade Foods:
One of the fastest ways to waste money and gain those extra pounds is to rely on processed foods. Microwave burritos may seem like a great idea in the store, but many brands pack up to 1000 calories per serving. Most college students keep a steady supply of Ramen in their dorm rooms for a quick meal, but while these dried soups are quick and cheap, they have little nutritional value and are loaded with sodium. If you often find yourself in a hurry when it comes to meal time, pick one day out of the week to prepare healthier foods that you can freeze and then reheat later in the week. Check out AllRecipes.com for some great meal ideas that can be prepared ahead of time and dishes that can be made in a matter of minutes.
Skimp on Animal Protein:
Meat is one of the most expensive things on an average person’s shopping list. Try to cut yourself from a total dependence on protein from animal sources. Instead, focus on eating healthier and cheaper sources of protein, such as beans, legumes, and a limited amount of soy products. Reducing your intake of beef, pork, and chicken will not only save you money, it can drastically improve your health. Keep in mind that the average American eats more than three times the amount of protein than their bodies require. All of that extra protein is stored in your body and becomes fat.
Creating healthy meals while in college does not have to be a financial burden for students. Smart shopping, planning ahead, and a willingness to make some small dietary changes can have a great effect on health and financial wellbeing.