by Kel Faherty / Staff Reporter
Whether it’s the bi-weeekly Big Mac, dining hall buffet or classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich, college meals look different for every student. So, what happens when a college kid is removed from their home kitchen? What strategies are students implementing, and are they in alignment with proper nutrition? Are there easy changes that students can utilize to optimize their financial ability and time allotted for food preparation?
Natalie Brounsuzian, Roosevelt assistant teaching professor of biology said, “Most college students, first and foremost, are in need of vitamin B12 in which they would need to consume animal products, unless they are taking a supplement. Meat can definitely be on the costly side, which makes it more difficult for students to obtain.” Because of high prices, Brounsuzian said she believed protein is often neglected in the average collegiate diet. “Protein can easily be accessed by eating lean meats, poultry, seafood, eggs and dairy products. However, students on a budget have a difficult time incorporating these foods into their diet.”
Freshman acting major Mackenzie Hahn said, “I do think wealth affects the general ability to provide proper nutrients for oneself because a lot of unhealthier foods are way cheaper than foods that offer more nutrients and benefits.” According to plutusfoundation.org, “a comprehensive review of 27 studies in 10 countries found that unhealthy food is about $1.50 cheaper per day than healthy food.” The Plutus Foundation said to feed a large family, it may cost less to buy food from the dollar menu or purchase cheap, premade frozen dinners.
Hahn’s personal navigation through the collegiate meal process is a popular one: the dining hall. “I use the dining hall because I have such little time between classes, have little time to go out and cooking is often hard in the communal kitchen.”
Justin Duggan, freshman acting major, agreed with Hahn. “The easiest way is the dining hall because it is a guaranteed meal,” he said. “I do think financial stability plays into nutrients because without a meal plan, it could be tricky to buy them on a daily basis.”
“The key is to become educated about what one’s nutritional needs are and some affordable ways to accomplish it through meal planning and prepping,” said Brounsuzian.
Brounsuzian said she reserves her own meal planning for the weekend. “Every Saturday, I have made it a routine in my own life to sit and write out meals I plan to cook each day and a grocery list. By sitting down and making conscious healthy meal choices, you are setting yourself up for success. Then Sunday is my grocery shopping and prep day.”
Hahn uses an overnight method. “My go-to for breakfast is overnight oats. I don’t have to cook anything, I just use my fridge, and it is healthier than a lot of options at the dining hall.”
Duggan shared the sentiment, saying a snack as simple as bread does the trick for him. “Nothing too fancy, just something to snack on. You are able to just eat a slice as is for a healthy snack.” Duggan added that ice cream should be a staple for college kids, because “everybody deserves a treat.”