A few weeks ago, Ben emailed me with a question about eating healthy as a working college student.
He said that he’s tried to start eating healthier, but several factors keep getting in the way, like the fact that he doesn’t have a lot of time to prepare his food and doesn’t have the budget to buy a lot of healthy convenience food. Three days a week, he works with his dad, who offers to buy lunch for him, but it is usually some form of fast food.
Ben wanted to know if we had any ideas to help him start eating healthier while on a college student’s budget and schedule.
Here are few ideas I had for him:
Capitalize on meals you prepare yourself
I’m not one for turning down free food either, so I understand your conundrum with your dad offering to buy you lunch on the days you work with him. Since you’re short on time to prepare lunch in the morning, one option could be to simply eat with him and select the healthier menu options. (I have hard time finding any healthy menu items on fast food too, so I know this can be tough!). Then you can capitalize on the quality of your meals that your prepare yourself.
Even when you’re by yourself, it pays to have an idea of what you want to eat throughout the week so you avoid impulse buys at the grocery store and so you can streamline your cooking.
For example, beans and rice is a fantastic, easy meal that you can make once, then pack in the freezer in single serving containers and eat with tortilla chips or make into a taco salad.
Find frugal healthy foods you enjoy
When you like what you eat AND it’s frugal, it’s a lot easier to stick with eating healthy.
Start packing lunch only once per week
This would give you sort of a "baby step" into healthier eating during lunch without breaking the bank after you’ve been used to not paying for any.
These are just a few ideas I’ve used in the past and still use today. (I shared meals with a missionary family when I was in Africa, so I also had to learn how to be selective about what I ate when I wasn’t in charge of the menu.)
I think the important thing is to do what works for you, and try to enjoy it. Don’t do so much you get overwhelmed, but do enough that you feel better about the way you are eating.
I know there are tons of options out there for people like Ben. However, I’m just one person, so I thought he would benefit from reading about your suggestions and experiences. What would you do if you were in Ben’s shoes?
Chime in with a comment and let him know!