Let’s face it, eating healthy is not a simple task, especially in college. Problems many college students report are inadequate time for planning, the lack of cooking skills, product pricing and tight budgets. These constraints force many students to skip meals in favor of paying the rising tuition and living expenses. As many attempt to forgo the basic meal plans for greater flexibility and financial savings, several college administrators across the country are starting to see a rise in hungry students.
The problem known as “food insecurity” (a lack of nutritional food) is not generally associated with US college students, but may be higher than the national average for other age groups according to the Chicago Tribune. In college healthy food choices take a back seat to fast foods, or foods of convenience that are pre-packaged and quick to prepare.
Here are some tips to incorporate into your college life to make smarter food choices for improved health. All you need to get started is a game plan, and a lot of creativity.
1. Spend time on the weekends practicing/preparing foods for ready-to-eat snacks and meals. Never get caught hungry!
2. Have a game plan.
Make a list of what you need before shopping and stick to it. Shop the paper or online for sales, know what produce is in season for best pricing, buy generic or store brand products and clip coupons.
3. Buy whole foods (sans processing).
If buying fresh produce is too expensive, buy frozen, freeze dried or no salt or sugar added canned products. Frozen and canned products can be just as healthy as fresh, plus they last longer.
4. Buddy System.
Find 1 or 2 friends who are interested in eating better and work together. Make your list and shop together to take advantage of better pricing for buying in bulk. Make a party out of the task to cook several meals and split the meals. Cook once, and enjoy a variety of quick, ready to eat meals throughout the week. Tip: but don’t include NYC food trucks on your healthy eating plan.
5. Eat more protein.
Simply, they keep you fuller longer. Buy from the list of the 10 cheapest proteins. The more budget friendly of these foods are canned tuna, whole eggs, whey isolate, ground beef, milk, frozen chicken breasts, cottage cheese and ground turkey.
6. Buy calorie dense foods.
Don’t freak out about the cals, these are filling and easy to store. These include whole milk, greek yogurt, potatoes, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, oats and beans. Replace meat with beans, rice and quinoa to make your budget go further. Make purchasing meat a splurge versus routine.
7. Such as whey isolate proteins, because they are cheap and can be added to drinks or smoothies. Be sure to take a good multivitamin to supplement what your body needs but isn’t getting from your diet.
8. Drink tap water.
You’re saving the planet and your money. Invest in a water bottle (or re-use a water bottle) and keep it with you. It is important to stay hydrated, water can help curb your appetite, boost digestion and more.