Your First Taste of Post-Secondary Independence
College. Years are passing by us and the necessity of getting a college education is growing, with many of today’s occupations requiring specialized skills or at least the guarantee that you know what you’re doing on a daily basis in a productive, reliable, and knowledgeable manner. For those who are heading straight to college from high school, it’s their first taste of freedom, individualism, and somewhat more importantly, accountability and independence.
Gone are the days that you can just get mom and dad to whip you up something. Gone are the days that you can just head on over to the cafeteria and eat some poorly mashed together hamburger or pizza. Sure, you can do the latter while in college, but the experienced students will be quick to tell you that when crunch time comes around, you’re going to want to be your best.
Simply put, pizza and burgers is a fair bit less healthy than a balanced diet with fruits, vegetables, and non-processed foods. Yet, college students are faced with an increasingly apparent problem: the college diet. Ramen noodles, discount foods, skipping meals, and utilizing college clubs for the free food events. You’ve heard of it, you’ve seen it, and you know deep down that it isn’t good for your long-term health but also not that great for your capacity to study, learn, and utilize while in a post-secondary institution. Healthy eating can be tough if you have more than enough cash, but can you achieve it with a strapped budget?
You certainly can. Keep reading for five quick steps you can take in your life that will redirect you from the ramen noodle curse and teach you how to eat healthy in college.
How to Eat Healthy in College
1. Get Yourself a Crockpot
Let’s start this one real nice and short. Crockpots are also called slow cookers, and they are quickly growing to be a household staple appliance, especially for those who are busy and claim they don’t have time to cook.
The process is simple. You gather the ingredients, you put it in the slow cooker, and you turn it on. Walk away for a few hours and come back. You can experiment or follow recipes to a tee, but the use of a crockpot can not only save you time and give you a healthy meal, but it can also make sure you come home to a warm meal after a tough day. It matters more than you think, and is an absolute must for those in college, especially those without a stove.
This one’s only $10!
2. Recipe Books and Pinterest are Your Allies
We are all a part of the information era, yet I would hazard a guess that most of us have never opened up a recipe book and scoff at the idea of using one. Pfff, recipes? Specific measurements? Specific steps? Puh-leaaaase…
Funnily enough, as a college student you are likely to derive the most benefit from recipe books or an alternative. Since you’re hip and in the know, you’ve heard of websites such as Pinterest. You probably also know these websites as being popular for wedding ideas, fitness images, and what is otherwise known as digital hoarding.
Pretty straight forward, but something given such a negative connotation actually has a ton of positives for someone who uses the website properly. Besides all the hullaboo about weddings, babies, and other nonsensical things to a college student, you can find a treasure trove of detailed and incredibly easy recipes that apply to the crock pot, counter top, stove, oven… You name it and you can probably find it with a step-by-step instructional blog post to accommodate all the pretty photos.
Not only will you find awesomely healthy meals that can be made in under half an hour without expensive ingredients, but you can even find recipes for those heart-attack inducing sloppy joes you’ve been wanting to have a taste of. You can change your diet for the better while also taking a cheaper and more natural approach to getting your naughty food fix.
3. Don’t Miss Out on Sales at Your Local Grocery Stores
Loads of people ignore sales unless they see the little flag on the aisle. Many only see what’s on sale when they step into the store, opting to just open up a flyer near the entrance and having a quick peek through the pages. As you’ll quickly discover in college, simply scanning quickly is a sure fire way to miss information and ends up with you making poor decisions because you didn’t take the time to think things through properly. It’s a plight we all face. We try to save time and end up exchanging that saved time with disadvantages at a later date.
As it so turns out, most grocery stores have joined the modern age for a while now, and you can still save time without the pesky disadvantages of making poor grocery decisions or simply not knowing about something being on sale that would be of interest to you. If you log onto your local grocery store’s website, there will likely be a big button saying something along the lines of “Weekly Flyer”. You can get this sent to your email address automatically every week, and you can read them over during your quiet moments.
Rather than rush through the grocery process and miss out on some potentially healthy discounts, you can know what’s available well beforehand and make an educated decision on what you can afford and what you can’t. Maybe you can’t afford that asparagus on a normal day, but you might be able to if it’s on sale for 50% off. Awareness, diversity, and proactive decision making can all provide benefits to your health simply by informing you of the potential foods that give a solid kick to your health.
4. Embrace the Wonders of Buying in Bulk
One of the best examples that can be referenced in regards to the benefits of purchasing in bulk is Costco. With a Costco membership, you can get yourself cheaper prices on so many consumer products around the house that you save money if you’re in the right usage group. Still, this isn’t restricted to Costco. In fact, you can often enjoy the perks of bulk purchasing in common grocery stores and on online stores such as Amazon (assuming you have Prime!).
Find yourself a small bag of rice in your grocery store, and you’ll see that it costs upwards of $3-7. That’s a bit hefty for something that will only be a couple meals and needs to be combined with some other food in order for it to be filling, right? Right.
Now find yourself a big bag of rice. One of those fifteen pound bags that are usually stashed away at the bottom of the aisle, out of sight. I don’t know what price you’ll specifically find, but I can guarantee it’ll be cheaper per pound (most likely around $20-27 total) than what you looked at before. If there is a food you know for a fact will turn into a staple in your household and the food doesn’t go bad after a short period of time, you are much better off buying it in larger quantities. You save money in the long-run and you get the secondary bonus of having stock in case you can’t make it to the store.
We all know a sudden flu can totally kick our ass in the worst way possible, and not being able to even eat would be the cherry on top of the misery. By purchasing bulk, you get to take care of your health in more ways than one. The preparations and habits you develop in college will follow you for the rest of your life, and now is as good a time as any to get started on what is undeniably a perfect habit to possess.
5. Move Away From Processed Foods
Perhaps the most difficult task found on this list. During your time in high school and early adulthood, it probably happened a fair bit that you ate something that comes from the freezer, needs to be popped into the microwave, is greasy, probably contains a ton of cheese, and has problems such as high sodium and high fat.
These are okay to eat every now and then (we all want to be spoiled!), but a regular occurrence and you’ll find yourself lacking in the health department while your wallet is taking a big hit. Many college students tend to spend a lot of money initially on junk food and delivery, beginning to then rely on things such as ramen and things that were found in a sketchy discount bin once the money tree suddenly dries up. Poor financial decisions aside, I don’t think anyone can argue against the perception that the above is not particularly ideal.
So, the solution is quick. Absurdly quick, even. You just stop buying all the expensive culprit foods and replace them with lower cost and healthier alternatives such as the ingredients necessary to make your own pizza on the weekends if you have access to an oven. You’ll end up eating more, getting better nutrition, and steering yourself away from what many claim to cause addiction. Replacing expensive freezer or pre-made foods with ingredients to make your own culinary masterpiece can keep your budget stagnant while providing a significant increase in how much you get to eat and an increase in your cognitive functions. College sure loves those cognitive functions.
Personally, that’s a huge win-win in my book.