Eating well in college is possible

Story by Monica Baltich

As far as food choices go, college students are probably the age group with the worst eating habits, unless we count children under the age of ten after a successful night of trick-or-treating.

When you think of typical college food, what comes to mind? Ramen noodles, macaroni and cheese, sugary cereal and anything cooked in less than three minutes. I would say it was sickening if I wasn’t guilty of grabbing that Easy Mac on more than one occasion.

Eating all that over-processed, preservative-injected, one step away from edible cardboard “food” has become so accepted as the reality of college life that people have started using it as an excuse.

I can’t count how many times I’ve heard students and friends say, “I’m a poor college student, I can’t afford good food.” Lies.

Well, maybe it’s not a total lie, but it is a cop out to be sure. It’s easy and quick to eat the way we assume college students have to eat, but it’s honestly not as hard as you think to eat actual real food.

First off, I have to clarify that I am not an all-natural, free-range, all the world is happy, snooty foodie. I like to think of myself as a conscious eater with organic tendencies.

This past summer my mom and I became completely obsessed with learning how to eat real, natural foods. Well, really she read all the books and then forced us to comply if we didn’t want to starve. I was not immediately on board with it, but honestly, I have found that once you start eating the things that are really good for you, the really horrible phony food just isn’t appealing.

Now, granted I’m still a sucker for an Oreo or ten, but what I discovered is that you don’t have to change everything all at once – rather, you can do it in more manageable parts that will stick longer.

The number one excuse I’ve heard is that healthy food is too expensive. That’s true, foods that claim to be healthy are more expensive. My tip: stay away from foods that have “healthy” in its title. I’m not kidding. Instead go for foods that don’t have labels, like produce, perhaps. They are fresh; things like apples and bananas and potatoes you can buy in larger amounts. Another option is buying organic or natural basics like pasta, milk and eggs; things that you use more often and have a lot of. That way at least your foundation is solid.

The farmers market is a fantastic place to get cheaper, fresh food that you know where it comes from. You can even talk to the people who made it. Also, if you buy produce that’s in season it tends to be a lot cheaper because there is a lot of it available and they don’t have to ship it in from the warmer climates around the world.

A lot of this would be made easier if you have a kitchen, of course, but since many students still live in dorms you can shift your focus. What I’ve started to do is choose organic or all-natural when I have the option.

When stopping by the coffee cart for a pick-me-up, why not go for the organic fair trade coffee instead of a blended sugary drink? Grab the organic trail mix instead of the muffins or mini donuts. Eating this way is becoming more acceptable so many brands are coming up with natural options that are usually of equal price.

It’s the little decisions everyday that build up and it’s all in what you make a priority, healthy living with more conscious effort or unconscious eating for the sake of time.

I’d like to think college is a time to mature and develop skills that will last me the rest of my life, so why not make eating well one of them?