Eating on a budget: Stay healthy on campus by planning ahead, shopping smart

Jasmine Schillinger

Starving college students and a budget are not a good combination. It is often common for college students, especially freshmen, to fall into unhealthy eating habits due to limited space and access to cooking appliances.

However, it is time to put the ramen packet down and listen to some quick tips on how to eat healthier on such a tight budget.

“My essential dorm room grocery list consists of Easy Mac, ramen, granola bars and cheese sticks,” said Mallory Wilson, freshman in elementary education.

Students who live off campus and have the opportunity to make their own meals tend to see a difference in their eating habits compared to their freshman year.

“It’s easier to eat healthier now living off campus because I prepare my own meals and can keep track of what I eat,” said Jacob Cool, senior in communications.

Mattea Rainforth, a 2014 graduate in dietetics, advised that students need to find a balance of eating healthy with being social. 

“Food is such a social thing in college,” Rainforth said. “It seems like whenever you meet up with friends or go to club meetings, food is involved.”

Planning ahead of time and packing your own lunch are two of the easiest ways to stay healthy on campus, Rainforth said.

“Buying healthy foods you enjoy at the grocery store can help you save money and eat healthier,” Rainforth said. “The days I ate unhealthy foods tended to be the days I didn’t plan ahead and had to buy something on campus.”

Most students are open to making healthier choices but are often turned off by the idea after looking at the more expensive prices.

“The higher prices for healthier food definitely influences my decision on making the purchase,” Cool said. “It causes me to shy away from the Health Market and try to find something to replace it.”

If you’re new to shopping for a healthier grocery list, there are dietitians available at each Hy-Vee location to help you find healthy, inexpensive options.

“I loved getting my groceries at Aldi or Wal-Mart,” Rainforth said. “They usually have the lowest prices and help you eat healthy on a budget.”

Planning your meals out and taking your own lunch to school will not only help you stay on track with a healthier diet but also stop you from buying Panda Express every other day, which ultimately saves you money.

“If you have a dining plan, you don’t have to avoid the ice cream machine. But you don’t have to eat it with every meal either,” Rainforth said. “If you don’t have a dining plan, get a lunch box and make it your best friend.”