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6 Tips for College Students Eating Healthy on a Junk-Food Budget

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Eating Healthy on a College Budget
Eating Healthy on a College Budget

Posted on Tuesday, January 24, 2017
By: University Spirit
Categories: Collegiate  |  Nutrition

The struggle is real! Truth is ramen noodles are cheap! If you buy in bulk, a one-pack meal of instant noodles will only set you back .18 cents. Add some free hot water, tear open the seasoning pack and you’ve got a warm, filling, slurptastic meal. So what’s the issue? What’s the drawback?

You may or may not know that instant noodles have been proven to be terrible for some people. A recent study by Baylor University published in The Journal of Nutrition shows that consumption of instant noodles significantly ups the risk of a chronic illness known as Cardiometabolic syndrome. The study found that eating instant noodles two or more times a week was associated with the syndrome, which raises a person's likelihood of developing heart disease and other conditions, such as diabetes and stroke.

So let’s unpack the pack: one pack of instant noodles contains 14.5 grams of fat, 0% vitamin A, 0% vitamin C, 0% calcium, only 4 grams of protein, and 10% of iron. And that wonderful seasoning packet? It contains salt, monosodium glutamate, seasoning, and sugar. One serving of noodles contains a whopping 910 milligrams of salt, about 41% of your daily allowance! One block of prepared ramen noodles has nearly 400 calories. The magic noodles are deep-fried and packed with chemicals which permits them to be stored unrefrigerated for up to 12 months. And the list goes on.

When we factor in the extended health costs like our global obesity epidemic, food-related heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, the $550 doesn’t seem like much of a savings. So what’s the fix? Shop Sensibly.

Determine the Destination

shopping together


No one will argue that convenience stores and gas stations are, well… convenient. But what you save in time certainly costs you. You are paying much higher prices for toxic junk and food that is less fresh! Plan ahead and allow time for shopping at your nearby supermarket or bulk warehouse savings store. Make the trip with the bros or the girls (or the bros and the girls) and make a fun day of it.

Be Prepared and Organized Before You Go

make a list


Make a list and check it twice. Keep your paper list handy in your kitchen or on your smartphone so that you can write items down throughout the week as you see you are running low on something. There is an app for that! In fact, there are dozens of great apps to help you stay on track. Plan ahead for your meals the coming week and know what you need before you leave. And never go shopping when you are hungry!

Buy Generic and in Bulk

buy bulk


Buying single portions always costs more. Whenever possible, buy larger portions. Not 5-gallon-bucket-of-peanut-butter larger (unless you are feeding the football team), but know what you can store and plan accordingly. A large jar of peanut butter takes up much less space on the shelf than a bag of chips, is packed with protein and lasts much longer! Separate bulk items into single-serving sizes after you get home using zip-lock bags and stackable sealed plastic containers. Your one serving of meat for this week can be placed in the refrigerator, while future individual servings should be frozen. Always check for comparable generic store brands when available. Often times the ingredients are nearly identical, and the cost is less. That’s money in your pocket.

Watch for Sales, Use Coupons and Savings Cards

use coupons


Make a daily check for coupons and advertised sales. Sign up for the local supermarket savings plans and keep the card on your keychain or in your wallet. You will find the difference to be huge, and not just on your groceries. Many supermarkets give you rewards in return including savings on gas. Filling your car for 40-cents less a gallon once a month will bring a smile to your face and justify driving the extra distance to the supermarket. Cha Ching!

Don’t Buy Junk

don't buy junk


Stay out of the junk-food aisle altogether. If you don’t buy it, you won’t eat it. Junk food is expensive and high in calories. Avoid sugary cereals as well. They don’t keep you feeling full for long and cost you a lot of money. Purchase whole-grain cereals that are low in sugar. Add fresh or dried fruit prior to eating to add healthy flavor and fun.

Snack and Drink Healthy

drink water


Avoid the expensive, trendy sports drinks, fruit drinks, and other prepared beverages! Hydrate the old fashioned way with water. Purchase fresh produce that is in season and snack healthy with fruits and vegetables. Dividing into single-serving sizes when you get home for quick, on-the-go snacking (when you are late for class) will ensure that you still get the healthy nutrition you need.

Tagged:college, university, campus, healthy eating, nutrition

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