College life is a wild time, and it can seem like there aren’t enough hours in the day to check off everything on your list. Neglecting your health, however, is a recipe for disaster, and taking the time to nourish your body is an investment that will pay off in dividends. Healthy college meals don’t have to break the bank, so read on for some budget-friendly ways to stay healthy this semester.
When considering how to eat healthy in college while on a budget, meal planning is the way to go. By having a plan, you eliminate a lot of food waste and cut your shopping costs significantly, all while choosing and preparing foods that align with your health goals.
There are different ways to meal plan and prep, and it’s all a matter of finding what works best for your lifestyle. Many people begin by planning out a week’s worth of healthy meals, making sure they have many overlapping, healthy ingredients, and then doing one big shopping and meal prepping day per week. Then, you get to reap the benefits of your labors all week long.
Eat What’s In Season
Foods that are in season not only taste better and contain peak nutrients; they are cheaper, too.! Seasonality can vary slightly by location, but you can consult a calendar to see what foods are in season at any given time or just take a walk through the produce section to see what’s plentiful and affordable. Also, don’t forget to shop around. If possible, check out a few different stores to find the best prices for each type of food item.
Farmers markets can be an excellent place to find affordable produce that is local and in season. While some farmers markets are seasonal, some are year-round and allow you to get in-season produce and other local foods at more affordable prices all year long.
Frozen and Canned Foods
While fresh fruits and vegetables are typically viewed as the “healthiest” options, there are certain items that just make sense to get canned or frozen. This not only saves money, but these items last longer and give you more flexibility as far as working around expiration dates. As long as you shop smart, reading labels for unwanted additives before you buy, you don’t sacrifice important nutrients by choosing canned or frozen fruits and veg.
Additionally, you can often get great deals by buying in bulk or shopping what’s on sale, and then you can freeze (or can or dry, if you’re feeling ambitious) the extras for later.
Consider Protein Alternatives
Meat is usually one of the highest-dollar items in a meal, and by partially or completely replacing it with other, more affordable protein sources (like beans, eggs, canned tuna, edamame, nut butters, or Greek yogurt) you can significantly cut food costs while still getting your needed protein.
Cut Out Sugar
Sugary treats end up adding a significant amount to your food budget, whether you’re buying unfulfilling treats from the grocery store or getting desserts at restaurants that leave you feeling sick rather than satisfied. Binging on sugar then increases your cravings, so you have to buy and eat more to chase that high.
A sugar-free diet plan will allow you to eat more nutritious foods that contribute to your success without loading up on sugary junk that makes you feel worse instead of better, all while whittling down your food budget.
Start a recipe catalogue of your favorite healthy meals. Some healthy college meals you can try include:
- BBQ chicken sliders you can make in the Instant Pot
- A vegan sweet bean salad
- Coconut peanut butter protein bites for an energy boost
- Overnight oats that make a great breakfast
By shopping smart and sticking to a meal plan to avoid food waste, you can stick to your health and nutrition goals without breaking the budget.