Opinion: How to food in college

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On top of studying, article and textbook readings, research, group projects (the bane of every student’s existence), and things like part-time jobs, we also have to find time to nourish our bodies in college. But…who has time for that?

Well, it certainly doesn’t feel like any of us do. I’ve found that in college especially, the statement “There’s not enough time in a day” rings true each time. In the past few weeks in particular, I’ve realized that I barely manage an hour of relaxation time each day, and even with eight hours of sleep, I feel exhausted. (Relatable much?) But like with exercise, meal planning and preparation are dependent on time prioritization, not availability. So, even though it may not feel like you have time to spare for making your own food, there is a way; you just have to be willing to find it and sacrifice for it.

Now, before we delve into meal-prepping, we must first understand the reasons for it. While it’s certainly tempting to rely on Burger King and Chick-fil-A for our meals for the sake of time and the cheapness, we’re also aware of the health problems that stem from this dependency. Most fast foods are greasy, oily, salty, sugary and almost entirely lacking in the micronutrients that are necessary for bodily (particularly enzymatic) functioning. In fact, poor diet is a major lifestyle risk factor for the two leading causes of adult deaths in the U.S.–cardiovascular disease and cancer. (Let that sink in a bit.) Additionally, as full-time college students, we require wholesome foods to continue pushing through our work. With a diet mostly comprised of fast food or frozen meals, you may discover your energy levels tapering off more than usual. 

But again, who has time to make their own food? Well…we all do. This doesn’t make the process easy–in fact, it can feel frustrating and insignificant at times–but it is the truth of the matter. But once you recognize the benefits of making your own meals–and the detriments of mostly consuming the convenient but unhealthier options–you may find that you prefer it. And at the very least, you’re doing your present (and future!) body a huge favor. So, if you’re like me and already have a medley of health problems and would like to avoid or reduce your chances of developing more, I highly recommend at least giving meal-prepping a try. (And even if you have perfect health, I still recommend it.)

And what if you don’t want to? Well, that’s fine too. The purpose of this post is to inspire you, not force you, to take charge of your health in college. And each person’s circumstances are certainly unique and different, so making your own food may be more of a challenge for you than some other people. But that’s not what I want to stress here. 

What I do want to stress is that this is a decision that will save you health and financial burdens along the road. (Fast food may be cheap, but medical and emotional expenses are not.) Sometimes, the decisions that seem hardest in the moment are the most worthwhile in the future, and though this is my opinion, limiting fast food and frozen meals and instead spending a little extra time and money on making your own food is one of those decisions.

Now, if you’re still reading this, I’m assuming that you’re interested in meal-prepping tips. And if so, here are a few, but keep in mind that it’s always best to do your own research and to experiment and find what works best for you:

  • Set aside a certain time period each day for meal planning and preparation. I usually spend a half-hour to an hour each morning, immediately after waking up. But each person’s style is unique, and you may find that you like spacing it out more and preparing in bulk.

 

  • Experiment with recipes that are simple and involve few ingredients. Here are some of my favorites:

 

      • Homemade ground turkey and vegetable soup (with chicken stock, carrots, kale, ground turkey meat, tomatoes, and onions). This one’s easy, takes only an hour to make four-days’ worth of it, and is open to substitutions for ingredients.

 

      • Overnight oats. This is a personal favorite of mine for an on-the-go breakfast. I normally make it with quick oats, stone ground oats, peanut butter, protein powder, honey, almond extract, chia seeds, and milk, but all you really need is oats, milk, and any other ingredients you want to add flavor with, including fruits and even (some) chocolate chips.
      • Sandwiches; Yes, this is an extremely basic one, but with the right ingredients and preparation, it’s not only healthier than a burger from McDonald’s, but it’s also tastier and more open to your preferences. I normally use toasted French bread, turkey or ham, and swiss or provolone.
      • Homemade pizza. There are a lot of good recipes out there for this, and you can use a variety of bases and toppings. However, I usually prefer a spinach tortilla base with pizza sauce, cheese, bell peppers, and onions. You can also use either a toaster oven or a conventional oven for this, though I’m sure there’s a microwave hack as well.
      • Fresh fruit and vegetables. Never underestimate the importance of fresh produce in your meals. And if you’re low on time, simply eating a banana or a chopped cucumber and tomato salad is the perfect option. And even if you’re not a fan of these food groups, try finding choices that work best with you and incorporating them into your daily meals.
  • Remind yourself of the pros of making your own food. Even if this involves you finding new health articles online, go for it! It also helps to connect with people who also plan their own meals and understand the struggles but ultimate benefits of it.
  • Keep in mind that eating out (in moderation) is still fine. Though you should aim to make most of your meals, eating at a restaurant is okay every now and then, such as once a week. But try to limit yourself to restaurants that serve healthier options, or if you choose something unhealthy, try to keep it as an occasional treat rather than making it into a habit. 
  • Take a deep breath. Always.
  • Try meal-prepping with a friend or partner. Making food is usually more bearable and even fun with people you enjoy being around. 

 

 

Hopefully, you’re all making it through the semester–and life in general–but if you’re willing to make the time for it, making your own food in college doesn’t have to be impossible or dreadful. Like everything else in life, it comes with downsides, but if you focus on the advantages of it, you’ll find that it pays off more than the costs. 

Either way, stay alive and healthy and keep pushing forward in your journey!

 

As always,

Nursing students unite!