A common misconception among college students is that eating healthy is unaffordable for a tight budget. However, registered Utah dietitians Brianna Rhodes, Connie Packer, and Rachel Higginson say students can maintain a balanced and healthy diet without breaking the bank — if they implement a few simple tips.
Rhodes advises students living on a budget to take advantage of grocery store sales.
“If you’re going for produce, you want to make sure you’re buying what’s on sale that week, because if you are trying to buy things at full price it can blow your budget pretty quickly,” Rhodes said.
When buying groceries on a budget, BYU Athletics dietitian Rachel Higginson suggests that students not inclined to buy fresh produce try frozen or canned fruits and vegetables.
“Students can even buy canned vegetables and rinse them. Rinsing them reduces sodium by 40 percent, and you can buy canned fruit with ‘lite’ syrup,” Higginson said.
With the internet at their disposal, Rhodes encourages students to search various blogs or Pinterest for quick, creative and easy recipes. Rhodes specifically recommends searching for slow-cooker recipes.
“Crock-Pot recipes are great for people who are running busy lives like college students. You can set them in the morning and then come home and have a healthy meal that you can work on for the rest of the week because you can eat leftovers,” Rhodes said.
Students are advised against removing any type of food completely, even junk food. Instead, Rhodes and Packer recommend keeping foods in moderation.
“I don’t think there’s anything that should always be off limits and you should never ever touch it,” Rhodes said. “All foods can fit in a healthy diet.”
Even though some dietitians believe that all foods can fit within a moderated diet, many specifically stress the importance of fruits and vegetables.
“Fruits and vegetables with every meal is kind of the key to (one): feeling full; and (two): you have a balanced and healthy diet,” Rhodes said.
While this recommendation may seem elementary, Higginson said “eating fruits and vegetables can decrease inflammation, regulate mood, heal wounds and speed recovery from injury.”
Meal planning is a key task that Rhodes and Packer agree can reduce preparation time and increase the likelihood of a healthy meal.
“Just sit down once a week, or sometimes people can do even once every two weeks, and just plan out what you’re going to have for lunch and dinner and snack foods,” Packer said. “Then when you go to the grocery store you can get all those foods and come home and prepare them all at once.”
In addition to saving time, Rhodes believes that creating a meal plan can also play a key role in balancing an overall diet. She recommends planning for side dishes, on top of entrees.
Maria Aranda, a BYU sophomore majoring in pre-dietetics, plans meals in an effort to buy groceries in an efficient and budget-friendly manner.
“You know what’s coming up so you can buy all your groceries in advance. You can plan out how much it will cost, you can budget, so you know what to expect, food-wise as well,” Aranda said.
Students who prefer eating in a dining center can also incorporate healthy choices into their diet. Rhodes recommends that students approach the dining hall the same way they would their own pantry.
“You know you can go back and get more food if you’re still hungry later, so just get what you think you need to begin with … try and go with a smaller portion size, a more reasonable portion size to begin with, and if you’re still hungry go back and get more,” Rhodes said.