Eating healthy can seem really tough when you’re at school and you’re pressed for time. Why go the extra mile (or 1.2 if we’re being precise) to Trader Joe’s when Leo’s and Good Stuff and Chipotle are right around the corner? Eating healthy can just seem like an extra stressor dumped on your already overflowing plate, but it doesn’t have to be a hassle. Here are some really quick, simple and cheap ways to hack a healthy diet without adding any extra burden.
1. Add spinach.
I know many people do not like spinach, but here’s the thing: it packs a big nutritional punch without an overpowering or overwhelming flavor. Unlike kale or other leafy greens, spinach has a pretty mild taste. For this reason it is really easy to add to other things without compromising their taste. I love throwing a handful of spinach into a fruit smoothie to get a serving of vegetables without even noticing. I also always add a handful to scrambled eggs in the morning. While the spinach is obviously much more visible (and easy to taste) in the eggs, it by no means overshadows the dish, and with a little Sriracha on top you’d have no idea you were eating something that’s so good for you. Trader Joe’s and Safeway both stock several brands of cheap, pre-washed and bagged spinach.
2. Add lemon juice.
This is one of my favorites, and probably the easiest healthy thing you can possibly do. The best part is you don’t even need fresh lemons. Lemon water has been hailed as a tremendous trick in the healthy living game. In fact, my own doctor told me to start drinking it because of its ability to aid the digestive system. As I am a lazy college student, I don’t have the ability to constantly be buying fresh lemons, but thankfully you can buy bottles of lemon juice from the grocery store. I keep it in my fridge and just squirt a bit into my water bottle before I go out. Not only is it super easy, and super good for you, but it tastes better than regular water, so you can pretend you’re at a bougie spa, even when you’re just sitting in the grimy locker room of your gym.
3. Sprinkle flaxseed.
The other day I received a care package from my mother that consisted entirely of health foods (I can take a hint mom…) and featured a massive bag of flaxseed with an attached note that said, “Sprinkle this on whatever, it’ll keep you regular studies linking it to aiding in the reduction of hypertension, skin cancer and depression. As they say, mother knows best.
4. Use honey or maple syrup as sweeteners.
What do sugar and cocaine have in common, besides both being white and powdery? They’re both highly addictive! In fact, some say sugar is more addictive than cocaine. Several studies have identified the addictive qualities of high fat and sugar foods, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist (it really doesn’t since I don’t think rocket scientists experiment with food) to know that sugar tastes good. Thankfully, there are many other things that taste good and are way better for you. At any chance possible, replace sugar with honey in your tea and try maple syrup in your coffee; it’s a bit unorthodox, but nonetheless good. Also, when baking you can replace sugar with maple syrup, a common trick in many paleo recipes.
5. Pack your own snacks.
I know this seems basic, but so much of eating healthy is eliminating temptation. I am a big believer in eating when your body says you’re hungry, and if your body is anything like mine, it has no regard for convenience. It sometimes feels like the world is trying to conspire against broke healthy eaters because there are so few quick, cheap and healthy snack options to pick up on the run. So if you know you’re going to get hungry on the go, take three minutes in the morning to throw something in a Ziploc bag. My three go to snacks are raw almonds with dried apricots, olive oil popcorn and peanut butter pretzels. All of these are cheap, healthy and great on the go.