Eating Right on a Budget
March is National Nutrition Month! We all know we need to eat more fruits (about 2 cups a day), vegetables (2 ½ cups a day), and drink more water to stay healthy, but how do we buy healthy foods without breaking the bank?
Having a meal plan on campus does limit your choices in some ways, but it is still possible to eat healthy. A meal swipe at Ball State allows you $8.20 for lunch and dinner. One way to ensure you have the money to eat healthy is to mind your beverage choices. Getting a cup of water is not only free, but it is better for you than buying a soda or sports drink. Drinking those other “pricier” beverages gets you a lot of sugar and empty calories. Now, let’s compare two meal options. Let’s say you buy a one meat sub for around $4.75. To go with that you buy a bag of chips for $2.45 and a medium fountain beverage for $1.25. You would spend $8.45. Now, say you bought that same one meat sub with a few more veggies on it for $4.75. This time add on a fruit cup for $1.25 and a side of Greek yogurt for $1.95. Add on a cup of free water and this meal costs you $7.95. Not only do you get vegetables, fruit, and dairy covered, but it is actually under the meal swipe limit. It is very possible and cost effective to eat healthy in the dining hall if you think about all of your options.
Off campus students have unlimited choices of the foods that they can buy, but how do they make the most cost effective decisions? First off, don’t go to the grocery store hungry. Being hungry will make you want to buy a bunch of junk food and leave less funding for healthier options. Second, make a list of items and stick to it. This will ensure that you are only spending your money on the necessities. Also, check out the unit prices on food items and if it’s cheaper buy some items in bulk. You may not eat 5 lbs. of chicken right away, but you can individually freeze it and pull out at other times. That’s the great thing about preparing meals yourself. When you spend money on frozen meals and pre-packaged food, they may be cheap, but you eat it once and then it’s gone. Cooking will save more money because leftovers of the meal can be had multiple times. Cooking is also healthier, because home cooked meals tend to have less sodium and more vitamins than what you would get with a frozen dinner. Another thing to keep in mind is that when buying produce, try to stick to items that are in season. It is cheaper this way because getting fresh fruits and vegetables in their off-season requires expensive shipping! You can look up what fruits and veggies are in season by going to this link.
Eating healthy isn’t always easy, but even on a low budget it can be done with the right choices. Continue trying to go for healthier food choices to help establish that healthier you!
Monthly Health Message written by Health, Alcohol and Drug Education intern Kendra Geis
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