Being a student can make healthy eating harder — we know, we’ve been there. It can be a constant challenge to make smart choices with so many unhealthy options around, and it can be expensive too. Of course, not all students have access to world-class dining halls or grocery stores on campus, but even if they do, students are often forced to grab quick meals between classes or pastries at the library or cafe during long nights of studying.
If you’re eating out, there are some simple tools to add to your nutritional toolbelt to help you manage options with ease — the 8 tips below will help any student eat healthy and save money at the same time. And for students desperate to make their own quick and healthy meals or those without access to a dining hall, we’ve compiled recipes that are affordable and easily prepared in a kitchen that is equipped with just the basics.
1. Start small but don’t set limits
Every step — no matter how small — is a step in the right direction. Start by making your meals just a little bit healthier. If you’ve been eating eating pasta with tomato sauce almost every day, use whole grain pasta instead of the refined version. After taking that step, the possibilities are endless. Elevate your pasta dish with some veggies or your favorite source of protein (e.g. tuna, mozzarella or tofu) and don’t set limits on your creativity.
2. Make the microwave your BFF
Almost everything can be cooked in the microwave, not just mini pizza bagels (we’re talking healthy, whole foods like rice, potatoes, beans and eggs). The microwave might not allow you to make MasterChef-worthy meals, but it’ll help you add some variety if you don’t have access to a stove. (FWIW: microwaves are not as harmful as you might have heard.)
3. Buy frozen
Buying frozen veggies saves prep time, keeps costs down and gives you a healthy option to reach for in a pinch. Veggies are already washed and chopped, meaning they only require cooking.
4. Cook like Grandma
You don’t need to invest in expensive superfoods like quinoa, spirulina or chia seeds. Think of what your grandmother used to cook – you know, meals that include staple vegetables you can find at almost any market – and have regular potatoes instead of sweet potatoes or cabbage instead of kale. You’ll save money and give your body similar nutrients.
5. Sneak protein into every meal
If you crammed a croissant while you were cramming for an exam, you probably noticed that you were hungry again just minutes later. That’s because the snack was likely lacking in protein but high in sugar. Adding protein to every meal and snack helps you feel full longer and reduces post-snack blood sugar swings compared to eating carbs alone. Our favorite low-cost options include tuna, chicken breast, eggs, beans and tofu.
6. Punch up the produce
Being healthy is not about calories, it’s about adequate nutrition. Your body needs nutrients from fruits and veggies in order to function properly and stay healthy long-term, so make sure each and every meal contains a bit of each group. Spinach, cabbage, apples and pears are budget-friendly, nutrient-dense options that help make sure your brain has enough fuel to ace your next test, and your body has enough energy to celebrate the good grade.
7. Fall in love with canned legumes
Beans and legumes are high in protein, fiber and complex carbs (those are the healthy ones), but they’re also just plain easy. Canned beans are basically the trifecta: healthy, cheap, and ready-to-eat. They’re already cooked, so just give them a quick rinse before throwing a serving on top of some fresh veggies with a splash of olive oil. Et voila! You’ve got a healthy no-prep-needed meal.
8. Plan ahead and never skip a meal
Your brain — like the rest of your body — needs fuel. Skipping meals negatively impacts concentration and make it harder to reach both academic and fitness goals. Make a small investment in some Tupperware and cook meals in batches, if you have space to cook and store. If you don’t, have canned veggies, legumes and other microwave-ready staples on hand at all times. You’ll grateful to have a meal to grab on-the-go when you don’t have time to stop at the dining hall or cafe. You can also pack fruits and nuts in your backpack so they’re there to grab when hunger strikes.
No idea where to start? 8fit allows you to filter by affordable and quick recipes, ensuring that you’ll find meals fit your lifestyle and budget. Here are some examples:
Black Bean Tacos with Lime Yogurt
Chickpea Salad with Tuna
Omelette in a Bowl
Beef in a Bowl
Smashed White Beans on Bread
Don’t worry, all macronutrients (protein, carbs and fat) and serving sizes will always be adapted to your unique needs, making 8fit a powerful tool to help you reach your wellness goals.