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What will you eat today and how will you pay for it? When it comes to eating healthy, college students face two major roadblocks—time and money.

Eat healthy, Save money


Photo courtesy of Richard Marshall / McClatchy Tribune
Dietitians share weight and wallet managing tips

What will you eat today and how will you pay for it? When it comes to eating healthy, college students face two major roadblocks—time and money.

But taking the time to invest now can have big health payoffs in the future. “Its never too early to start eating healthy because it will affect your health as you age,” Ann Lentell, a registered dietitian who teaches in the food science and nutrition department, said.

Mollie Smith, also a registered dietitian in the food science and nutrition department, said college is an important time to be aware of your nutrition. “It’s important for [students] to eat balanced meals so that they give their body energy to keep going all day,” she said. “You can’t go all day on nothing and think very well or perform very well. [Students] have to pay attention to feeding their brain.”

Lentell and Smith know college students need to eat healthy but they also know that most college students tend to be on a tight budget. “It’s a common misconception that eating healthy is more expensive,” Lentell said. “Chips, soda, snack food, those are all very expensive.”

So how can college students eat healthy when they are on the go and on a tight budget? Lentell and Smith offer students tips that are healthy, affordable, and easy:

Tip #1: Buy in season. Lentell said you might have to expand you horizons, but fresh fruits and vegetables in season will usually cost less.

Tip #2: Use the freezer. If you would rather stick to foods you are comfortable with, Smith said frozen has the same benefits as fresh. Frozen fruits and vegetables will not spoil, they don’t contain the added sodium or sugar like canned or dried options and they can be prepared easily.

Tip #3: Buy in bulk. You can buy food in bulk and freeze what you won’t eat right away. Lentell said while this may seem expensive, it will save you money over time. “Sometimes the initial investment is a lot but it pays off in convenience and how much you are getting.” For example, $10 for a bag of frozen chicken seems like a lot but if it will feed you for 10 meals, it does not seem as pricey, she said.

Tip #4: Portion food yourself. If you buy in bulk and portion yourself, you will also save money. You can buy a large tub of yogurt for much less than purchasing several individual containers. Portioning ahead of time will also make it easier to grab healthy food in a hurry. Lentell suggests items like almonds, grapes, baby carrots and granola. “Sometimes it just takes an afternoon, maybe an hour, to prepare some food so it’s ready when you come home from school or when you are packing your lunch,” she said.

Tip #5: Look up, down and around. Grocery stores tend to put the most expensive items at eye level, Smith said. She suggests buying generic when you can. Many taste the same as the name brands and cost less.

Tip #6: Brown bag it. You can save money by bringing your own lunch to school or work every day or even a few days a week. Even if you can’t bring your entire meal with you, Lentell recommends packing healthy snacks. She said snacking is important for keeping yourself energized but snacking on convenience items, like many of the options found in the bookstore or student union, can be costly.

Tip #7: Use leftovers. Make too much on purpose and freeze the leftovers. Then, when you need a quick and healthy meal, you will have something on hand that doesn’t involve a drive-through window.

Tip #8: Go lean. Buy lean meats like chicken and fish. Avoid beef or pork that contains a high amount of fat and try to stay away from lunchmeats like salami. Choose turkey instead.

Tip #9: Skip the meat. Smith said you can omit meat altogether from some meals. Doing this at least once a week reduces your risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer plus it can help save a little bit of money.

Tip #10: Invest in a water bottle. Instead of spending money on bottled water, buy a reusable bottle and a filter for your refrigerator. You will quickly start saving money and you will be doing your part to help the environment by not creating unnecessary landfill waste.

To save money on groceries in general, Lentell said decide what you’re going to eat, make a list and stick to it when you go to the store.

And if you can only change one thing in your diet at a time, “Eat plenty of fruits and veggies,” Smith said. “If [students] are going to change one thing, the one thing they should do is try to eat more fruits and vegetables because they have lots of health benefits that will pay off over a lifetime. They are low in fat, low in calories, high in fiber and those are all things we recommend in general.”

For more information on healthy eating, students can make an appointment to meet with a registered dietitian in the health center.

  • cydonia16

    Great ideas, I would also suggest seeking a local shopping reward or easysaver program. Tip number 9 especially, I decided to become vegetarian not long ago but have already noticed what a difference it has made in saving me money.

  • gdusing

    I didn't believe you could eat healthy without a bigger than usual budget. But when you think about it, it comes down to feeding your body the nutrients it needs, not the junkfood we're so fed up with. Jason Narconon Vistabay