Healthy eating on a student budget
The financial burden of post-secondary education is not only dangerous for the wallet, but for the health of many students as well.
A tight budget is leading many students to make poor choices when it comes to nourishing their bodies.
Personal trainer Mike Macala, says eating healthy is not just important for the obvious reasons, but will help in all aspects of student life. This includes improving the ability to focus, combat stress, and maintain energy to get through long and tiresome days on campus.
“The important thing to remember is to never go hungry,” Macala said.
Going hungry will often lead to poor diet choices because a person will reach for the first thing they see to eat, which is often unhealthy fast food.
Having snacks available is key. Macala recommends fruits and veggies, as they are both inexpensive and easy to carry around all day.
Macala says that it ultimately comes down to balancing all the food groups and staying away from excess fats, sugars, and too many alcoholic beverages. He added that it is not difficult to make these choices on a tight budget, either.
“Carbs have a bad reputation, but stuff like pasta is cheap and helps keep your energy levels up,” he said.
Macala also recommended stocking up on protein, as it keeps the body full for longer throughout the day. Proteins such as chicken and beef can be a little expensive, so it helps to buy in bulk when possible. There are also many cheaper forms of protein, such as eggs, Greek yogurt, and milk.
A sandwich often makes for a cheap combination of carbs, protein and perhaps some vegetables – plus it’s easy to haul in the backpack.
Supplements are also a great way to help obtain all the vital nutrients the body needs to get through the day, said Macala. Many vitamins and supplements like protein powder may seem a little expensive, but when they are broken down into daily intake servings, the cost is relatively low. Of course, like food, shopping around for a good deal will ensure money is being saved.
The general consensus amongst students interviewed seems to be that bringing food from home is the best way to eat healthier when they do not have a lot of money to spend. First-year medical transcription student Claire Howell believes there is not much of an alternative. “It is difficult [to eat healthy on a budget] because it is just cheaper to get fast food,” she said.
Conversely, first-year power and process operations student Scott Minifie tries his best to pack a lunch every day, which usually consists of a sandwich and some pieces of fruit. While he recognizes that these are healthy items and he gives himself props for toting healthier lunch items, he admits that this has more to do with his budget than anything.
“If you eat out every day, it is like eight to 10 bucks a day,” he said. “A loaf of bread lasts you a week for three dollars.”
Minifie added that it is not impossible to maintain his balance of health and budget when it comes to buying food on campus. Though it may take more effort, the effort it takes to bring food from home will have greater value.
“It is a pain in the butt to make your lunch every night or in the morning, but if you are worried about budget, it is definitely worth it,” said Minifie.