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Eating healthy on a budget

It’s almost 8:00 p.m. You have spent the day studying, working, and meeting with friends, but now you are starving. Everywhere you look there are enticing signs for quick meals at low prices. It’s convenient, it’s cheap, and it can’t be that bad, right?

As a busy college student, it’s difficult to fight the allure of fast food. While its convenience and prices are unmatched, eating fast food regularly can lead to nutritional deficits and an overall unhealthy lifestyle. In the effort to win the war against fast food, dietetics student Sydney Means ('21) offers a few tips to eat healthy on a budget.

Eating healthy on a budget infographic
Photo by Dylan Smith

1) Make a battle plan
Planning is half the battle. Plan your meals for the week and make a grocery list before shopping. This will ensure that you have all the necessary ingredients for your meals, minimize food waste, and reduce impulse purchases. Make sure your meals require a realistic amount of prep time and fit your taste. This will help you follow through with your plan.

2) Buy local
Locally made or grown food means that you don’t pay for shipping. This method is also better for the environment and keeps your food fresher. Eating local produce like honey can even help combat seasonal allergies. Most of all, supporting local farmers and understanding where your food comes from is a great way to help the community and eat mindfully.

3) Buy Generic
Here’s a secret big brands don’t want you to know: the generic brands are sometimes the exact same food repackaged and cheaper. Buying generic brand cuts costs, and most of the time you won’t know the difference. Generic options even exist for healthier foods such as quinoa, brown rice, yogurt, and nuts. Won’t know ‘til you try!

4) Cook at home
We know that college students are incredibly busy, but prepping healthy meals and snacks at home to bring with you on the go can help you overcome the temptation of fast food. Microwaves are conveniently located throughout BYU campus to help out. Need some ideas? Nuts, baby carrots, apple slices, and protein bars can be great pocket snacks.

5) Buy frozen or canned foods and in-season produce
Frozen and canned food retain the majority of nutrients and are extremely budget-friendly. They’re an easy way to add fruit, vegetables, or protein to any meal. Another bonus is that these foods store longer and are more flexible to changing meal schedules. In-season produce is fresher, tastes better, has the most nutritional benefits, and is often cheaper. Nutrition? Check! Budget? Check! Your parents will be proud.

“I think a lot of people see healthy eating as an all-or-nothing endeavor,” Means says. “When college students think about improving their health, they often make grandiose plans like ‘I will never eat out again,’ or ‘I’m going to exercise for an hour every day.’ These ambitious goals can lead to burnout or disappointment when we inevitably fail to reach such lofty goals. The best health changes are the ones that are easy to do. As you follow through with these simpler goals, you’ll feel more motivated to live an overall healthier lifestyle and save money.”

Take the leap and set a goal to eat healthy while staying on track with your budget.