For a college student, eating well can be tricky. If you have a meal plan, the food options are endless and you’ll have to practice self-control when passing the ice cream each day (trust me). Alternatively, if you’re on a budget, you’ll have to know how to create healthy and tasty meals without emptying your bank account.
What’s a hungry and health-conscious student to do? Maya Maroto, MPH, RD, instructor for the School of Education, Teaching and Health at American University (www.american.edu) in Washington, D.C., shares her perspective.
What is your advice for students who want to eat healthy on a limited budget?
Making food from scratch — like salads, smoothies and home-cooked meals — can be done on a very limited budget. Also, make your own coffee and tea and use a reusable water bottle instead of bottled water. Don’t spend money on things that you can make for yourself at home!
Which foods give students the most “bang for their buck?”
• Canned beans can be used in quesadillas, soups, salads and pasta
• Canned tuna to make tuna salad and tuna melts
• Nuts or trail mix for an on-the-go snack
• Hard boiled eggs
• Peanut butter without hydrogenated oils or added sugar to snack on (with apples)
• Whole wheat pasta and tomato sauce for an easy, healthy meal
• Fruits (not junk food!) for snacks
Are there healthy options on your campus?
My campus offers a number of healthy options including salads, sandwiches and fruits. My favorite spot is the salad bar. There’s also a great farmer’s market on campus once a week that offers fabulous food.
How much should a freshman budget for food their first year?
If you are dedicated to preparing your own meals from scratch, about $200 to $300 per month; however, when you start dining out, it gets more expensive than that. I’ve heard some students say that skipping the meal plan and preparing their own meals was more affordable and healthier.
What can future college students do to assist them with eating well?
Learn to cook! Restaurant meals are generally much higher in calories, fat and salt than anything you would prepare yourself. My wish for all college students is that they make time to cook. Another key piece of knowledge is that most of the foods you eat should have only one ingredient. For example, eat “bananas” instead of packaged “banana-cream-pie” in the vending machine with 50 weird ingredients that you cannot pronounce.
Alyvia Burkey is a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) who holds a MS in Health Promotion Management from American University.