8 Helpful & Easy Tips to Eat Healthier in College on a Budget

Last Updated on August 9, 2021 by David Shaw

girl eating healthy food

Are you planning to eat healthier while in college? Turns out, preparing your own meals in college is not as troublesome or time-consuming as you think. Eating healthy not only promotes healthy physical development but also boosts your academic performance and is less costly than you think.

We’re glad that you’re deciding or planning to take the first step towards eating healthy in college. In this article, I will be teaching you not only how to easily eat healthier in college, but also on a good budget without having to thrift on ingredients or grocery expenses.

Eat Milk and Cereal for Breakfast

cereal and milk

The first step to a healthy diet in college is by starting with breakfast. Most college students skip breakfast, which is the most important meal of the day, and there’s a good reason why you should not.

If you think about it, our body actually needs the most nutritious diet during breakfast due fuel we burn while sleeping. To replenish the fuel our body used while sleeping, breakfast should always be prioritized with nutritious food and fluids.

Regardless of how troublesome you feel preparing breakfast can get, milk and cereal can be a good choice for a quick and budget-friendly breakfast. Basic nutrients and minerals we need for our body like carbohydrates, protein, fiber should be enough to keep up our body powered up for the morning.

If you feel milk and cereal are too bland for your taste buds, be creative! Add honey, cinnamon powder, or certain fruits to your liking. During my college days, I always mix different brands of bland and sweeten cereals and top it off with a whole avocado to keep my body fully fueled for the morning. Besides being a budget-friendly choice of breakfast, it will probably also help you save money on heavy lunch if you’re on an empty stomach due to skipping breakfast. Or if you prefer oats, then it could also be a good alternative for a healthy breakfast.

According to a study conducted on high school students in Abu Dhabi, substantial evidence even suggests that students who take breakfast have relatively better improvement in their academic performance.

Choose More Chicken Over Other Meat

According to the Wholesale and Retail Prices for Chicken, Beef, and Pork statistics in the US, chicken meat remains the lowest of the three throughout the years. Below is a chart for the wholesale and retail price of 3 selections of meats in the US in 2020.

Wholesale Price (dollar per pound)
Retail price (dollar per pound)

Despite the price of chicken meat being significant a lot cheaper, it can still be equally delicious and nutritious compared to other meat choices, and easily prepared in more ways than pork and beef.

Given that the retail price of chicken is over 3 times and 2 times cheaper than beef and pork, it makes chicken the most affordable choice of protein for your money.

Besides, chicken meat is also the perfect choice of lean meat and protein if you’re on a low-fat diet or exercising. Learning to use both chicken breast or chicken thighs can help change the taste of the dish significantly. If you think chicken breasts are too bland or dry, buy chicken thighs or wings instead, and you can simply add more flavor and cooking styles to your desire.

For more ideas of meals prepared with chicken meat, check out these easy-cook chicken meals to help you prepare delicious and easy meals in college.

Don’t Shop Organic Produce

organic produce

If you’re someone who likes to incorporate greens and other vegetables in your diet, then you should never shop the organic produce section! Organic products are often not as good ‘healthy’ or sustainable as you think, and often substantially a few more times the price of regular produce.

Despite being labeled as organic, the truth is often misleading as organic products are not necessarily more environmentally friendly to farm compared to regular production. Worst yet, organic products also use pesticides, and they could sometimes be as harmful to the environment as pesticides used for regular products.

Don’t even bother shopping the organic produce section because they are none other than a marketing strategy scheme to make you spend more money. If you want some good and cheaper organic produce, maybe try shopping around your local farmer’s market instead, where you can even ask about the products, and even bargain for a cheaper price.

Here’s a good video explanation on whether is organic food better than regular produce:

Avoid Eating Excessive Processed Food or Snacks

processed snacks

Processed food is well known to be higher in calories, convenient, and hyper-palatable so that they taste really good. Besides the fact processed food is generally less healthy and expensive, processed food are digested faster because much of the fiber in the food is lost during processing.

Given that eating processed food nowadays is virtually inevitable due to its huge availability, limiting your intake of processed food can bring various health benefits. Since most processed food like sweets or salty snacks is generally high in carbohydrates, sodium, and easily digestible, it easily makes people eat plenty and splurge on it.

If you eat too much processed food or snacks, you will soon realize you are spending more than you should on junk food or maybe putting on more unhealthy weight.

Slow Cook Your Meals

curry stew

Although this is typically a less common choice among college students, investing in a slow cooker does all kinds of wonders for kitchen duties while in college. This is especially handy for students with busy class schedules and those who prefer to save money from eating out.

By only putting all the ingredient and seasoning in a pot and leaving it to cook, slowing cooking your food is arguably the easiest way to prepare a meal because you simply don’t have to watch over it. By the time you’ll be home from classes for the next meal, a delicious meal will be all done and ready to eat. Not only is slow cooking your food healthy and delicious, but it is usually soft food due to the long cooking process, which stimulates your appetite very well.

One of the best cooking tool I stumble upon in college and also use for slow cooking was the Instant Pot that has similar features of a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, saute, yogurt maker, sterilizer, and warmer all in packaged in one handy tool. What I recommend is this instant pot model which is extremely affordable and has the perfect size for college use.

On days where my schedule is packed with classes, I usually make prepare ingredients to make dishes like chicken or beef stew. It only takes me around 10 minutes to prepare the ingredients, and I can come home to a warm meal, which I can easily share with my housemates or friends coming over.

For more slow cooking recipes you can learn, check out this article for easy slow-cook recipes students will like.

Eat Baked Goods as Snacks or Meals

ham sandwich

Eating baked goods like bread or other flour-based bakeries as a snack is far cheaper and healthier than other forms of snacks or food bars. Depending on your preference, bread can be turned into many types of healthy and delicious snacks or meals if you are generous with the portion.

A loaf of bread at your local bakery or grocery store shouldn’t cost you more than $5. If you top it with jam, meat, or eggs for an additional $20, you can make good sandwiches that you can treat as healthy snacks which easily last you 2-4 days. Compared to snacks like a food bar or chips, eating a sandwich is far more economical and healthier.

Be creative with it, you don’t always have to make the same old peanut butter and jam spread. Spread multiple types of jam, leafy greens, sauces, or smoked meat to enhance the flavor of your sandwich. If you want a change of style and taste, maybe invest in a bread toaster and experiment with different ingredients to create sandwiches that you like.

To get ideas and get started on a few easy and delicious sandwich and bread recipes, check out this article for more. Next time you need a quick, filling, and healthy snack you can conveniently eat in between classes, a good sandwich can help save your day.

Learn How to Use Garlic and Onion

vegetable spices

If you’re someone who’s just not familiar with the kitchen, it turns out all you need is 2 basic ingredients to make any food tasty, cheap, and healthy. Even if you don’t have the slightest bit of cooking experience, adding onion and garlic along with salt to any dish can’t possibly go wrong.

Garlic and onions are the best natural flavor enhancers filled with many nutritional benefits with many healthy minerals and antioxidants good for our body. Learning the different ways to using onion and garlic in your dishes is enough to create countless different types of dishes. By either dicing, slicing, or mincing these two basic vegetables in any dish, you can literally create different styles of dishes if you just put in a little extra effort learning a few different recipes.

Make a soup, stew, or stir-fried dish, adding these 2 ingredients basically gives your food most of the flavor it needs aside from meat and salt. If you want to further spice up or enhance flavors in a dish organically, learn to use spices and vegetables like ginger, chili, basil, parsley, or even use different oils like sesame, olive, and peanut oil next time.

Make One-Pot or One-Pan Meals

spaghetti in a pot

One-pot or one-pan food is truly a hack and lifesaver in college. Not only is it convenient to cook, but easy and cheaply delicious to make, and won’t give you many dishes to clean up after. All in one pot usually never goes wrong if you simply put in enough ingredients, and let the flavors in the ingredient do their job.

You should also know that home cooking is always healthier than eating out as you won’t likely be using artificial flavor enhancers. During my college days, I can’t count the days a hearty pasta dish in a pan filled brighten up my evening from a long day of school. Pasta dishes are unarguable among the easiest dish to cook and have literally countless of ways to prepare it, and I owed so many good memories thanks to learning to make pasta dishes till today.

Here are 50 recipes for one-pot ideas that college students will definitely love or get ideas from!

The best part about one-pot food is that If you make cook too much food, is it easy to store leftovers in the fridge. Pack it nicely and readily in boxes, and for the few coming days, you will have quick and delicious microwavable food to eat whenever you’re hungry.

David Shaw

I graduated college with a Computer Science degree and enjoy blogging about the college experience as a hobby. I like spending time learning about the latest happenings in the tech and entrepreneurship world. With my prior experiences and knowledge, I hope my college lifestyle brings help to people

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