College Student Probs: Balancing College and the Need for Real Food

(photo source: collegeplanningadvisors.wordpress.com)

Ramen noodles. Easy Mac. Frozen pizza. Pop tarts. What do these have in common? Ohhh yeah, the infamous college cuisine.

So here’s a question: Is it physically realistic or even possible to eat healthy, decent meals in college?

Before I answer…

First of all, since I lived in a dorm last year, I automatically had a meal plan, which included about one meal a day and $300 for restaurants on campus. So, I usually grabbed a breakfast bar on the way to class, ate a meatball marinara from Subway for lunch, and ate in a school cafeteria for dinner. 

This year, living off campus in an apartment, I do not have a meal plan. I figured I would do the same for breakfast and lunch, but at least cook dinner. I soon learned that I barely had time for this! I spend the majority of the hours I’m actually at my apartment sleeping. I resort to fast food or restaurants on campus when I don’t have time to return to my apartment. And when I do have about 10-15 minutes to make dinner, it’s a simple pasta or some macaroni (but made on the stove, of course).

So here is my answer: It can be realistic and possible, both if you have a meal plan/live on campus or not. But it can be a challenge and may require schedule readjustments. 

  • If you have a meal plan or are stuck on campus:
    • Go to the restaurants available that offer the healthiest choices. For example, don’t get greasy pizza when you can choose a grilled chicken salad. Also, go for water instead of soda. Saves you money, too.
    • If you can, take back fruits or healthy snacks from the cafeterias. Save them for later. Again, this saves you money you could’ve spent at the vending machine full of Grippos and cookies.
    • If you don’t have a meal plan or are not on campus:
      • Personally, I find this more challenging because the cafeterias are more expensive than buying groceries. But cooking is more time consuming, and you have to be in your apartment or home to cook. So, the first step is spending more time in your apartment; do some homework once in a while there instead of in the library.
      • Try waking up 10 minutes earlier than usual a few times a week to pack yourself lunch.
      • Try taking out 30 minutes out of watching T.V. with your friends or out of nap time (which is an impossible request for me) to cook yourself some dinner, and maybe for you and your friends if you’re at their place; basically, dedicate some time in your schedule for, well, food.
      • When you do cook, cook something that will last more than one day in the fridge and make a lot of it.
      • Buy some healthy snacks such as nuts or fruit; even if you’re not too proud of your meals, you can try to take in some nutrients in small doses throughout the day.

And I saved the best for last: The best option, especially in the beginning and end of the school year? Find events for free food on campus!

 -What are some things you do to get wholesome meals during college?

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