How to Make Healthy Choices on a College Student's Budget

It’s hard to stay healthy in college with so much going on between school, clubs, and your social life, but your health is super important. You need to make smart decisions like going to the gym on a regular basis and occasionally cooking your own meals instead of eating out. But at the same time, most people don’t have the financial means to hit up Whole Foods every week to splurge on super foods or pay for a monthly membership at an elite gym. To help you stay on track, here’s a few ways to make the healthy choices even on a college student’s budget. 

1. Keep healthy snacks stocked in your dorm and carry some with you in your bag to class.

Try to avoid the Kraft Mac n’ Cheese cups, Hershey’s bars, and Lay’s potato chips making their way into your dorm snack stockpile. Having junk food in reach will make you more likely to consume them in excess. Instead, keep items like nuts, Boom Chicka Pop (my personal favorite), and various other snacks that are easy to portion out and enjoy in either your dorm or between classes. These can be purchased in almost any grocery store for a decent price, and when portioned correctly, can last you quite a while, minimizing the amount of times you need re-purchase them.


2. Download apps such as MyFitnessPal to help keep you on track with healthy eating and exercise!

There are tons of free apps available for download on iPhone and Android devices that can help you make healthier choices. The best part is a lot of them are free! I recommend MyFitnessPal over any other app because it’s extremely user-friendly. This app has you enter stats, such as your weight, when you first download it and lets you set goals for things like daily number of steps.

Once all of this information is entered, the app will track how many steps you take each day and you can keep a food log of everything you consume. It will even calculate how many calories you have left for the day to warn you when you’re getting close to your limit of calories, sugar, carbohydrates, etc.



3. Utilize the school rec center.

At most colleges and universities, a swipe or scan of your student ID gives you access to a full gym, with no direct out-of-pocket cost. If this is available to you, take advantage of it! If you have an afternoon free of homework, use an hour of that time to go get in some physical activity at your school’s gym. Set a routine for yourself, even if you only go once or twice during a weekend. Having this luxury fixed into the cost of tuition gives you no excuse to miss a workout!


4. Make the healthiest selections you can with your dining plan.

Sometimes it’s hard to resist piling up three plates of pizza and fries in the dining hall on an all-you-can-eat plan. The key to eating healthy on a meal plan is choosing the best options. If your school offers a salad bar, try and steer yourself in that direction before you head for those chicken fingers. I suggest always eating at least a small or medium salad before putting anything else on your tray. This will help fill you up with healthy greens and leave a little less room for unhealthy items.


Also, try and avoid added sugars in the desserts and sugary drinks most dining halls offer. Instead of a Cherry Coke, opt for water instead. If you must have dessert, a wonderful alternative to donuts and ice cream is fruit since fruit only has natural sugars in it.


5. If you’re going to indulge, do so in moderation!

You don’t have to eat 100 percent healthy all the time to still be a good eater. It’s okay to allow yourself one cheat meal a week. The easiest way to do this is by utilizing your dining dollars to eat somewhere other than the dining hall. Again, this is a way to save money since you prepay for your dining dollars when you select a meal plan. While these meals are a fun way to treat yourself, don’t go overboard! Instead of ordering everything in a supersized portion, order the smallest size of fries.


And there you have it, collegiettes! Just because we don’t have an extensive amount of money to spend doesn’t mean living a healthier lifestyle isn’t possible. All it takes is making the most of what you have available and some smart choices!