Eating Healthy as a Starving Student: A Guide

All too often college students tend to find themselves busy, broke, and underfed. A lot of students end up going to extreme measures to feed themselves while keeping their crazy schedules and managing their tight budgets. While a diet of ramen noodles and crappy gas station food might keep you alive, your body will take a hefty toll. Avoiding malnutrition is more than getting enough calories into your body. You have to eat healthy food too. Here’s how you can eat healthy as a busy starving student.

Step #1: Realize Food Is Fuel

Think of your body as a complex system of machines. Each part of the system needs a different combination of fuels to operate properly. Too much or too little of any fuel can cause the system to malfunction or fail.

Calories are necessary, but they’re not the whole game. Yes, eating enough calories every day will help keep you from starving to death but it won’t stop you from developing malnutrition, diabetes, or other health issues related to a poor diet. Your body needs proteins, vitamins, and minerals that come from eating a wide variety of legumes, fruits, vegetables, grains, leafy greens, dairy products (or adequate substitutes), and meats (or adequate substitutes).

Step #2: Go Over Your Budget

If you haven’t already, create a budget. A worksheet like this one can help you get organized.  Once you’ve gone over how much money is coming in and where it goes, comb through and see where you can make adjustments to eat a healthier diet. It’s also a good idea to make a budget specifically for food. After you’ve gone over your budget, see what adjustments you can make to have more money to eat right and cover your other necessities.

Step #3: Give Up the Daily Treats

If you buy coffee from a coffee shop every morning, you should realize that for every expensive latte you purchase you could get a month’s worth of frozen vegetables. The same sentiment goes for daily trips to the gas station for a soda, online shopping several times a week because you deserve it, or having to get the latest and greatest gadgets. If you’re sacrificing your food in the name of non-essentials your body is paying the price.

Treats should be an occasional pick-me-up, not a daily necessity. Cut out the every day non-essentials so you can afford the big things like rent, food, heat, and electricity. If you’ve cut out all of the non-essentials and still can’t pay for the essentials, then it’s time to ask for help.

Step #4: Learn to Cook

Cooking costs less than dining out for every meal, plus it’s healthier too. If you don’t know how to cook there are some great tutorials online. Or, you can ask a friend or a family member to teach you how to make a few basic dishes.

Step #5: Buy Generics

Buying the generic food brands can help you save a ton of money without going hungry. Most of the generic products taste the same; they just lack the fancy label. Spend smart.

Step #6: Clip Coupons 

It might sound kinda lame, but couponing can help you save a ton of money on your groceries. Shop around, compare prices, and look online and in the mail for coupons on the things you need. Twenty-five cents off may not sound like a lot, but you can nickel and dime your way into savings the same way you can nickel and dime your way into debt. Just a little bit at a time can make a huge difference.

You don’t have to starve your way through college. Make smart choices, and dont’ be too proud to ask for help when you need it. There are a lot of resources available to you no matter what your circumstance is. Do you best to make healthy food choices and your college experience will be much happier and healthier because of it.

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