Episode 109: September 27, 2010
By Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N
How to Eat Healthy When Time is Tight
This is the second of a two-part series for college kids and anyone else who finds that their ability to eat well is hindered by a lack of money, time, kitchen space, or cooking skills. In Part I, I had some tips on making your food budget go further without sacrificing your nutrition. In this article, I have some tips on how to fit healthy eating habits into a tight schedule, as well as some advice on how to cook without a kitchen and how to survive on cafeteria food.
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Tip #1: Plan Ahead
Don’t wait until the needle on your nutritional gas tank hits E to start thinking about what you’re going to eat for your next meal. Go shopping on the weekend so that you have healthy foods on hand for the week. Prep your lunch and snacks the night before so that you don’t run out of time before heading out in the morning. Set the alarm fifteen minutes earlier to leave time for breakfast. Trust me: fifteen minutes of extra sleep is not going to make that big a difference in your energy levels or alertness, but a healthy breakfast will.
Tip #2: Find the Good Cafeterias
A lot of students live on campus and/or have a full or partial meal plan that allows them to eat on campus. Many campuses have a variety of food choices, including cafeterias as well as fast food options. If you have an on-campus meal plan, take the time to scope out the healthier options, such as the dining halls that offer salad bars or vegetarian entrees, and head for those instead of the burger joints and pizza counters—at least, most of the time.
Tip #3: Learn How to Cook (With or Without a Kitchen)
A lot of students say they either don’t know how to cook or don’t have enough cooking gear—or don’t even have a kitchen. But you would be amazed what you can do with an electric rice steamer, crockpot, hot plate, toaster oven, or small microwave oven. A couple of inexpensive appliances and an electrical outlet, and it’s Julie and Julia all over again.
Okay, I may be exaggerating a little bit. That crown roast pork or whole poached salmon might be a little hard to pull off in a dorm room. But you can scramble eggs in the microwave, dump in some chopped vegetables from the grocery store salad bar, and fold the whole thing into a tortilla for a healthy breakfast burrito in the time it takes for your iPod to sync up the latest playlists.
There is a whole genre of books dedicated to simple, healthy, inexpensive meals that can be made without a lot of equipment or know how.
Here are just a few to check out:
Tip #4: Cook Once, Eat (at least) Twice
Cooking takes more time than ordering take-out. So make sure you leverage the time you spend cooking by making a large quantity.
In the first part of this series, I pointed out that you can save a lot of money—and improve the nutritional quality of your diet—by cooking more of your own food. But there’s no denying that cooking takes more time than ordering some take-out. So make sure you leverage the time you spend cooking by making a large quantity. Make a big batch of soup or chili and freeze some for another meal. No freezer? Invite three friends to dinner, with the understanding that each of them will host a meal over the course of the next month.
More Tips for College Kids from Nutrition Diva Listeners
Leslie notes that it’s the late night snacking that often does you in. To combat that, she recommends keeping a bowl of fruit on hand. Apples, pears, and bananas are good choices if refrigerator space is limited.
Sarah suggests stowing homemade bean and cheese burritos in the freezer to pop in the microwave for quick meals.
Joe recommends investing in a rice cooker and a Foreman grill. He says he made do with these two appliances while he renovated his kitchen and found them versatile, easy to use, and easy to clean up.
My friend Ryanne Gallagher, who is working on her master’s degree in nutrition at Ohio University, says that The Dorm Room Diet by Daphne Oz offers good do-able solutions to the type of issues that college students face.
Nutrition Diva 2011 Campus Tour
Next March, in observation of National Nutrition Month, I’m going to be visiting colleges and universities all across the country to talk about healthy eating for students—and everyone else! If you’d like me to stop at your school, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll try to make it happen.
I’ll have more updates about the tour in my free weekly newsletter. And of course, you can also stay in the loop by following me on Twitter or Facebook.
Have a great week and remember to eat something good for me!
The Starving Student’s Cookbook, by Dede Hall
The Starving Student’s Vegetarian Cookbook, by Dede Hall
Cooking Outside the Pizza Box, by Jean Patterson.
Healthy College Cookbook, by Alexandra Nimetz
Healthy, Fast, and Cheap, by Seth Braun
The Dorm Room Diet, by Daphne Oz