Graphic by Haley Morkert.
LAUREN HOUGH | OPINION COLUMNIST | [email protected]
Let’s get real for a second.
Learning how to eat on a consistent schedule — let alone ensure you’re eating healthy — in college can be one of the hardest transitions to university living there is. The dreaded “freshman 15” exists for a reason.
Whether you’ve gained or lost fifteen pounds this year, it can be an indicator of unhealthy eating habits — but don’t worry, we’ve all been there.
At the start of this school year, I dropped meal plans entirely — I didn’t love the food at Atherton, was wasting meal swipes and never felt satisfied after meals. I planned to cook all of my meals in the beautiful, full kitchen of my AV apartment.
Oh, how naive I was.
After a long day of classes, I quickly began to dread coming home to make dinner. I never got up early enough to cook eggs in the morning and granola bars just weren’t enough to sustain me. So, by the end of the first semester, I was eating one meal a day and a whole bunch of sugar-rich snacks. I knew it wasn’t healthy, but I simply didn’t have the time to deal with it.
If this sounds like you, know you aren’t alone.
Diet has a strong impact on stress, energy levels, school performance and your immune system. What and when you eat could make or break your college experience.
However, taking time out of your day to acquire and prepare food adds an entirely new dimension to college life time-management. This is a problem many students on our campus battle, and after experiencing the struggles firsthand, I have a few suggestions to develop a healthy, affordable and sustainable meal plan.
The most labor-intensive yet cost-friendly option is to team up with other struggling college students. Whether that means your roommates, floormates or a friend, it’s way easier to cook meals for more than one person. If you’re like me, your schedule doesn’t allow ample time to cook dinner every single night. Trade cooking days with your pals and split the cost of groceries.
Junior biology major, Aubrianna Radee, uses this method with her roommates.
“We have a Pinterest board that everyone can add stuff on,” Radee said. “That’s the easiest way for us to just grab meals.”
Radee and her roommates all cook twice a week, so their Pinterest board makes it easy to select meals and shop for groceries once a week.
Pro tip: If you have eating restrictions in your household, choose meals that can be modified for everyone: gluten-free pastas, meatless tacos, dairy-free cheeses, etc. Always pair your entree with sides like grains, starches and vegetables to help balance your meal and please picky eaters.
If you don’t despise the taste of reheated food, meal prepping is the way to go. Designate one day a week to prepare meals and place them in microwave-safe containers so all you have to do is reheat them throughout the week. If you don’t have time to run back to your dorm for lunch, this is also a great option for quick meals between classes.
I make a large pot of soup every weekend and put some in a lunch box with veggies for a quick lunch on campus twice a week. This is a great option for those living in dorms with community kitchens — you’ll only need the kitchen for a few hours once a week.
Katie Strohl, senior actuarial science and statistics major, uses leftovers from previous meals for lunch.
“My mom is a really good cook,” Strohl said, “I was just kind of raised that way, you know? I want to cook instead of going out to eat.”
Strohl also opts to share meals with friends and roommates so that excess leftovers don’t go bad in the fridge.
Pro tip: There’s a microwave available for student use in Plum Market if you want to bring meal-prepped lunch or dinners to campus.
For those that loathe cooking in general — or for serial procrastinators like myself — meal plans could be your new best friend. Cafe and catering company Clean Eatz offers affordable meal plan options in a variety of pricing models. You can pick up your meals from their Fishers location at your convenience throughout the week. Clean Eatz provides a breakdown of calorie count, protein intake, fats and carbohydrates for every meal. Best of all, these can be reheated in the oven, in the microwave or on the stove, so they’re accessible to every living situation.
If you’d rather cook your food yourself, but don’t have time to go shopping, meal-kit companies like Hello Fresh will drop off the fresh groceries required for recipes of your choosing.
Pro tip: If you want to give Clean Eatz a try without committing to a meal plan, they have pre-packaged or hot meals available in their Fishers cafe.
If having meals ready at your fingertips works the best for you, you can continue to invest in the university meal plan. Meet Patel, junior health sciences and Spanish major, opted to get a partial meal plan even though he has a full kitchen in his AV apartment.
“That basically gets me most of my meals because I’m not much of a cook myself,” Patel said. “…I’m not generally a picky eater either, so that helps.”
If you remember one thing from this article, please let it be that you need to eat three — yes, three —meals a day. Preparing food like an adult is hard, but your body needs fuel to learn and grow and prosper, so make sure you’re feeding it.
Oh, and don’t go to the grocery store on Mondays. You’ll thank me later.
Quick and easy meals: