Tricks For Eating Healthy As A Broke College Student With A Crazy Schedule

by Narendra Sharma

At UC Santa Cruz, home of the fighting banana slugs, classes are the easiest part of life.

It's not that classes are easy; it's that everything else is so hard. Take housing, for instance. Just finding a place to crash is like doing calculus. Student housing is full and all the places that rent to students are full, too.

You'll often find seven students living in a two-student apartment. There is even a place in the woods where students live in tents like a homeless camp.

You would think eating would be easy, what with the cafeteria and all the fast food available everywhere. But this is California.

Eating healthy is a priority in some circles. So here are some tips on how to eat the banana slug way.

1. Get the most out of what you eat.

Diet is what you eat, not what you don't eat. If you have eating issues or other health problems, don't just cut calories. You need to pack as much nutrition per calorie into your meals as possible.

This means looking to whole foods instead of refined foods. Replace empty carbohydrates with whole grains like quinoa.

A good strategy is to resolve to eat a whole piece of fruit before resorting to a sugary snack. It will deliver more nutrition and make that candy bar less tempting.

2. Plan your eating.

This means you may have to carry some food around with you so you are not caught hungry between classes on a heavy day.

Invest in some baggies and plastic food storage containers and fill them with healthy food. Don't wait until you are starving to eat. That's when the worst decisions get made.

3. Keep healthy food around where you live.

If you are rooming with others, it can be difficult because people often share, but keeping your stuff separate and in labeled containers will help keep your nutrition on track.

Frozen food is surprisingly healthy. Freezing berries and veggies actually preserves more nutrition than canning does.

4. Try to get some protein into every meal or snack you eat.

It will keep you satisfied longer. Refined carbs shoot your blood sugar and insulin all over the map and create periods of hypoglycemic hunger that force you into bad choices. Protein and a little fat stabilize your blood sugar and keep cravings under control.

A great strategy is to have a jar of peanut butter close by. It's cheap, lasts forever and contains healthy oils and protein. Get some without the added sugar, but a little salt is OK. A spoonful of peanut butter will stave off hunger until you can get some real food.

And if you start the day with breakfast cereal, consider adding a little peanut butter. Sound's weird, I know, but it tastes great and will smooth out the blood sugar rush that would otherwise leave you hungry a few hours later.

You should choose a cereal that has whole grains, like granola, and has less than 10 grams of added sugar per serving.

5. Be smart when you eat out.

When eating at the cafeteria or at an all-you-can-eat buffet like Golden Coral, you face an overwhelming temptation to overdo it on desserts. To avoid calorie overload and maximize nutrition, visit the salad bar first.

And while we're talking about salads, the real nutrition hazard is the dressing, which can be packed with calories. Alternatively, the low-cal varieties tend to have lots of sugar. Use sparingly and chose well.

If the dining hall at school has whole fruits, grab some for your backpack if you can manage it. An all-you-can-eat buffet won't allow you to take anything out of the restaurant with you, but that's not usually the case at the school cafeteria.

6. Don't drink your calories.

One of the wisest decisions you can make in your life is to shun soft drinks. Sodas are full of sugar and the excess consumption of sugary drinks is linked to the epidemic of obesity today.

Even fruit juice has too much sugar per serving, so if you consume fruit, eat the whole thing. Grind it up to make a smoothie if you like so you get all the fiber, but don't drink glasses of orange juice thinking it's healthy.

Everybody should drink more water, so carry a reusable water bottle with you. Bottled water is pretty much a scam. It's not only expensive, it is often less pure than tap water.

Ounce per ounce, eggs are one of the best nutrition values available. Consider boiling up a dozen and keeping them around for when you need a little more protein with your meal.You can beef up the nutrition of college go-to foods like ramen and macaroni by adding some veggies and eggs.

Eat healthy, live cheap and study as hard as you party!