Healthy eating possible for broke college students

Photo credit: Kylee Darger

It is a common stereotype that college students on a budget survive off ramen noodles and junk food, but Hanna Cornelius, junior in nutrition and Spoon University writer, does not think it needs to be that way.

“If you’re not going to buy the crazy stuff, it’s really not that bad,” Cornelius said. “It’s easy to get carried away and buy $40 worth of fruit, I’ve been guilty of that, but just be aware of what you need.”

Cornelius said eating healthy does not mean only eating with the idea that the foods will help them lose weight or be a part of some diet. It also does not mean following the latest health articles one sometimes sees online, which Cornelius said people, “should take with a grain of salt.”

The articles that list foods to cut out completely can sometimes be incorrect, she said. Some of the foods on those lists can actually be good for the body, at least in moderation.

Eating healthy should be more about how one feels after eating healthier foods and still enjoying a treat every now and then.

“Coming into college, I was excited to be out on my own and have even more freedom when it came to my diet,” she wrote in her article. “Making healthy choices isn’t difficult because of the food. I thought it would be easier, I could have more options and control the kinds of food I would have in my dorm room. I was wrong. I traded having more control over my food for having more pressure to conform to the eating habits of my peers and the ‘typical college student.'”

However, Cornelius was able to overcome the pressure to eat junk food with her peers and now eats healthy foods to make her feel good. She focuses on healthy food, but she still saves room for the occasional slice of cake or two.

College students can be busy and tight on money sometimes. Planning ahead and mixing and matching are key to college students eating healthy, Dianna Schalles, registered dietitian, said.

“It’s definitely doable …” Schalles said. “Planning ahead is going to save a lot of time and money.”

Leftovers are great for college students to be able to pack lunches or keep for the next night’s dinner, Schalles said. She recommends students to cook extra food when they have time and packing the next day’s lunch or dinner right away. This will make planning meals later more grab-and-go between classes, work and extra-curricular activities. Having a meal ready before can also help students not spend extra money on fast food or restaurants.

According to College Board’s article, “Average estimated undergraduate budgets, 2016-17,” room and board are the biggest expenses for college students enrolled in a four-year public university such as K-State.

Cornelius and Schalles both said eating healthy does not have to be expensive. Schalles said looking for things on sale and sticking to a grocery list written before going to the store will help cut down on unnecessary spending.

“It’s really not that hard to find affordable deals on stuff,” Cornelius said.

Cornelius said looking at the label for different things like protein, saturated fats and added sugars can help students be aware of what they are eating. Websites like can also help students figure out what exactly they are eating.

Schalles said Lafene Health Center offers resources as well for students interested in healthy eating. A cookbook, “Cats Get Cooking,” is offered online through Lafene’s website and provides basic recipes tailored for college students.

“There’s lots of options out there,” Cornelius said. “You’d be surprised what’s healthy.”

Hi everyone! I'm a senior in journalism and cultural anthropology. My favorite things are storytelling, coffee and meeting new people. In that order.