Healthy Foods For College Students On A Budget

By Matthew Cenzon. May 7th 2016

Poor eating habits developed during the first year of living on their own, and eating foods with little to no nutritional value due to a limited food budget are two nutritional pitfalls that many people experience upon entering their first year of college. These are two possible reasons for gaining the dreaded "Freshman 15," but what's even worse is increasing the risk of serious health conditions at such an early age. If you want to avoid putting on the "Freshman 15," but you don't want to break the bank on expensive, nutritious foods, here are some cheap, easy and healthy food ideas for you to try:

Whole Wheat Pasta And Tomato Sauce

Instant noodles are a common college staple. They're cheap, easy to make, and they're quite satisfying. But, if most college students would stop and take a second to read the nutrition label on one cup or packet of instant noodles, they'll be shocked by the fact that one serving has more than a whole day's worth of sodium. On top of that, instant noodles offer absolutely nothing as far as nutritional value.

If you're looking for noodles that are just as satisfying, but also affordable, try some whole wheat pasta with some tomato sauce. This is a fairly affordable alternative to instant noodles and requires very little prep time. Plus, you get the added health benefits from the tomato sauce and whole grain noodles, not to mention you're not ingesting a ridiculous amount of sodium that can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Whole Wheat Bread And Tuna

Stop gorging on fast food just because it's cheap and easily accessible. Invest a couple of bucks on a loaf of whole wheat bread and some cans of tuna. A tuna fish sandwich on whole wheat bread is a lot more nourishing than a greasy burger full of trans-fats. Plus, tuna is a healthy substitute for a burger because it's a healthy source of protein. Try adding salt, pepper, hardboiled eggs and onions to add more flavor to your tuna sandwich instead of cheese and mayonnaise.

Brown Rice

Rice can be purchased at a relatively low price, but you should invest a little extra money to get the brown version instead. Brown rice is packed with nutrients like vitamin B, iron and vitamin B3, and it can be served as a side dish or as part of main dish. Another great thing about brown rice is that it is full of fiber, meaning it can help regulate your digestive tract and is filling.


Most people may not find them appealing at first, but with a little creativity, you can turn a can of sardines into a satisfying dinner. For example, try using some of that tomato sauce you purchased with your sardines. Pour the tomato sauce and the sardines in a pan and let them simmer for a few minutes, then serve them over the brown rice. You can also create a sandwich spread for your whole wheat bread with sardines.

Snack On Fruits Instead Of Junk Food

In case you didn't know, apples, oranges and bananas don't cost a fortune and are very good for you. Put down that candy and bag of chips and start snacking on these healthy fruits between study sessions. College is one of the worst times to go on a snacking bender because you aren't forced to follow any set meal schedule. This causes you to overeat and contributes to the "Freshman 15." However, if you're eating a healthy snack like a piece of fruit, you have less to worry about.

Water Versus Soda And Energy Drinks

One of the worst culprits for gaining weight during college is the excessive amounts of soda and sugary energy drinks that are consumed on a regular basis. Cramming before a test, late night study sessions and habitual procrastination all require some heavy doses of caffeine. Unfortunately, most energy drinks and highly caffeinated sodas also contain enough sugar to increase the risk of serious health conditions like obesity and diabetes. Drink more water to keep yourself refreshed and hydrated. With a good water filter, it's practically free. If you absolutely cannot function without caffeine in your body, here are some healthy suggestions:

  • Too much caffeine can have adverse effects on your health. Try to wean off of it and only resort to caffeine boosters in times of emergency, like before midterms or finals.
  • Drink the diet versions of sodas and energy drinks, but use them in moderation.
  • Plain, black coffee is your friend. However, it should also be used in moderation.
  • Green tea can be an even better friend.

These are just a few suggestions that can keep your body healthy without hurting your budget. Don't destroy your body for the sake of saving a buck or two, and avoid developing bad eating habits that you might retain even after you graduate from college. Eat smart, eat healthy and don't become another victim of the "Freshman 15."

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