Budgeting your health: A freshman’s guide to eating healthy on a budget

The freshman 15 – the infamous number referring to the 15 pounds college freshmen usually pack on in their first year away from home. The newfound freedom leads to larger responsibilities and oftentimes, more spending. It’s no secret that many students struggle with money between the astronomical book prices and those miscellaneous charges that mysteriously appear on every bill.

This freedom and lack of funding lead students to make poor food choices and ultimately value convenience over what’s healthy.

Dajon Maye, a sophomore biomedical sciences major, has his concerns for healthy food options on campus.“It’s kind of hard when you can’t make stuff you want to, you just settle for what’s available,” Maye said. “Eating healthy is on my agenda, but it’s hard with such a crazy schedule.”For student athletes like Maye who must work through both classes and practices, it isoften easier to grab a snack instead of planning out an entire healthy meal.

UB caters to students’ on-the-go lifestyle and carry many frozen delicacies, as well as a wide array of candy bars, sugary drinks and potato chip varieties. While there are healthy options in the vending machines and in various cafes, self-control becomes a factor and students aim for taste over health.

These choices, though convenient, can often pack a punch on the wallet as well.

“The on-campus grocery stores are definitely more expensive than off campus. Just this morning I bought two chocolate chip cookies and it cost me four bucks,” Maye said. “Whenever I leave campus, I usually save half as much as what I spend in an on-campus store.”

A balanced diet requires fruits and vegetables – fresh foods that don’t require preservation. Fruit and vegetable options are available at many of the cafes and stores around campus.

Dr. Jennifer Temple, director of graduate studies in exercise and nutrition, stresses students’ need for a balanced diet.

“When considering food options, students should think about balance, variety and moderation. Balance meaning food from each food group,” Dr. Temple said. “Variety meaning within each food group, especially fruits and vegetables. Moderation meaning it is okay to eat (certain) foods, but eat them infrequently and in small amounts.”

Dr. Temple knows that for many students, it can be unrealistic to try to diet or cut out certain foods, especially while living on campus with limited options.
“The most realistic diet is one that include foods a student likes and doesn’t eliminate entire food groups,” Dr. Temple adds. “Students should try new fruits and vegetables and substitute water for caloric beverages [like soda]. These things can make a big difference in the quality of diet.”

Grocery shopping is one way to control diet but may be a new task for those used to living at home. It seems daunting, but can be simplified with a list, a budget and some friends to help.

Tops and Aldis print their ads weekly as well as post them on each of their respective websites, however Wegmans discontinued the practice over five years ago in an effort to go green.

Jennifer Boesken, a junior English major, also feels that campus food prices are high. She instead brings her food from home in order to cut costs.

“I feel like the stores overcharge, my friend eats a plate from one [restaurant] and it’s eight dollars,” Boesken said. “That doesn’t seem so bad, but could get pricey over time, I bring my own food due to time constraints in between classes.”

Buying in bulk is another smart way to save in the long run, especially as a way to bring snacks to school from home. Rather than spending a lot of money on the name brand it may be easier to spend that money on the off-brand option with a higher quantity.

Keeping these in mind can keep struggling college students away from the dreaded freshman 15.

Paul Lashaway is a staff writer for the features desk and can be reached at features@ubspectrum.com