BYU nutrition professor shares how to eat healthy on a budget

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Vegetables and ramen on a tabletop. BYU nutrition professor Sarah Bellini shared start-of-semester tips and encouragement for students trying to eat healthy on a budget. (Alyssa Regis)

BYU nutrition professor Sarah Bellini shared start-of-semester tips and encouragement for students trying to eat healthy on a budget.

Cooking a well-balanced meal doesn’t need to be expensive or time consuming. According to Bellini, it’s something every student can easily do—once they know what to look for.

Bellini said that one of the most common misconceptions students have about cooking healthy is knowing what is healthy. “People think, if I’m healthy, I’m going to have to cook all organic or have fresh fruit and vegetables all the time,” Bellini said. “You just have to eat them!”

Bellini recommended using canned versions of fruits and vegetables since they have the same amount of vitamins and minerals but stay longer in the kitchen and are easy to use. In fact, fresh fruits and vegetables lose vitamin C over time, so Bellini encouraged students to utilize canned produce. 

Bellini also shared tips for students on a budget trying to cook more healthy this semester. She recommended talking to roommates before shopping.

“Sometimes it is more cost effective to buy food in bulk and divide it up,” Bellini said. She also said to plan ahead by making a grocery list and shopping the shelf for food on sale. In the spirit of planning ahead, consider cooking a larger meal on the weekend and using food storage containers to portion out meals for busier nights.

Bellini isn’t the only one looking at the common misconception surrounding healthy cooking. Kaitlin Kartchner, the registered campus dietitian, said that many students incorrectly think that eating healthy means being super strict about your diet. “I think it’s very individual and doesn’t have to be a set plan,” Kartchner said.

For students living in a dorm, Kartchner recommended treating the Cannon Center like a grocery store and shopping around for your meal. “You can always build your own plate and make it what you want it to be,” she said.

Bellini said if students want to do well in school, they should embrace healthy eating. “Taking care of their bodies and fueling them correctly will help them perform well,” Bellini said. Kartchner reminded that students are able to make an appointment with her for free nutrition counseling. Both want students to do their best by eating right.

A study published by the National Library of Medicine showed that eating healthy is related to a lifestyle with positive impacts on the mindset. Although participants in the study were aware of proper eating habits, many admitted that they weren’t following them.

Graphic with tips on how to eat healthy on a budget. BYU nutrition professor Sarah Bellini shared start-of-semester tips and encouragement for students trying to eat healthy on a budget.(Graphic made in Canva by Alyssa Regis)

BYU student Kelli England said that as the school year progresses and her free time decreases, time spent chopping and sautéing gets replaced with three-minute microwave dinners.

“I feel like I definitely rely more on Trader Joe’s frozen dinners when I’m a little bit busier,” England said. “However, it does feel good to actually cook something.”

She said she gets a mental break that brings satisfaction when she sits down to a meal she took 30 minutes out of her day to make.

Bellini said cooking doesn’t have to require lots of time and money and recommended that students plan ahead and make just a few simple changes to the grocery list.

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