Nutrition can greatly impact our ability to study. In fact, what we eat directly influences our cognition. So it’s important to think about how to achieve that, especially when in college. But a well-rounded diet isn’t always easy for students living on a shoestring budget and with limited time.
We did some research that may help. It turns out that it is possible to make healthy choices without giving up financial stability. Here are ways to support your brain and body as you work hard toward success in school.
Stick With the Basics
With so much information on social media about extreme diets and supplements, it’s easy to feel like the only way to stay healthy is by dropping a couple hundred dollars in the Whole Foods checkout. Ignore nutrition marketing as much as possible and stick with the basics of nourishing eating.
Load up on vegetables and reach for whole grain carbs for energy. Use lean protein and healthy fats to stay satisfied. Follow hunger cues instead of counting macros or calories, eating when hungry and stopping when your hunger is satisfied.
Meal Plan Eating is Budget Friendly
Students on university meal plans can take advantage of the buffet line to make sure they’re meeting their nutritional goals. Make a beeline for steamed and roasted veggies first, then look for baked and grilled chicken and fish, brown rice, baked potatoes and fruit to fill up your plate.
One caveat: It may be tempting to load up on meal-plan food, knowing it’s already paid for by tuition. However, overeating is still overeating, even when it’s wholesome food on the plate.
Dorm Room Cuisine
Healthy eating on a budget is all about creativity and strategy. Heavily processed white breads may by cheap, but local bakeries, groceries and cafes might have day-old, whole-grain bread available for a fraction of the original cost.
Another little-known option for affordable nourishing eating is ugly produce. All around the country, major grocery stores are participating in programs that connect consumers with fruits and vegetables that don’t look pretty enough for their shelves but are still perfectly fresh.
Lastly, finding inexpensive protein is possible if you take notes from your vegan friends. Legumes are among the most affordable sources of protein, and both canned and dried beans can be cooked in a microwave. Don’t forget that brown rice is also budget-friendly and simple to cook in a limited kitchen.
Ultimately, financially sustainable eating that’s also nutritious is best approached with balance. Ramen or freezer dinners may not be ideal, but they meet needs for calories and carbohydrates — add an orange a snack and remember not to live on coffee alone. It’s okay to turn to these options here and there to stay on budget without going hungry.