Eating well while living on campus is possible, with a little work

Alyssa Jingling

The freshman 15 is no joke. It is possible, however, to eat healthy while navigating the 40 Acres with limited time and money. With just a little planning in advance, students can find and create quick, healthy meals to eat in between classes. Students should take the time to plan nutritious meals and plant-based snacks in order to properly fuel their bodies with the clean energy and nutrients they need to navigate college life.

“What I recommend to students in a hurry is to use the Eco2Go box to fill up, and bring it back to your dorm to grab in a rush,” Sotear Kuy, a registered dietitian for University Housing and Dining, says. “If you have time, go online to see the menu for a dining hall up to a week in advance, and make your healthy decisions there.” Students can fill up these boxes in any dining hall on campus to bring back to their dorm to eat later. With a little careful planning, you can bring back healthy options.

“Look for items that contain whole grains, protein and healthy fats,” Kuy said. Eating healthy is about finding a balance. Kuy recommends food lines where you can customize what you’re eating, such as a deli line or a build-your-own-bowl line.

Meal planning can be daunting. On Instagram or Pinterest, it often looks like containers filled with colorful vegetables that take up a lot of fridge space. It doesn’t have to be hard, though. Once a week, students can take a half hour from their Sunday Netflix binge to plan out what to pack in their Eco2Go container each day. The Nutrition Services website lists the nutrition icon meanings and how to eat on a specific diet, like vegan or gluten free.

It’s easy to grab a quick, hot meal from Wendy’s. But over time, fast food meals add up. Buying fast food every day gets expensive, and you end up eating a lot of empty calories. Vegetables provide a lot of mass with less calories, which can make them cheaper. As a result of their mass, you also don’t need to eat as much to feel full. Even though you are eating less calories, fresh foods are typically nutrient-dense and provide a greater range of vitamins and minerals than fast food.

On-campus markets such as JCL sell some fresh produce, but you can also check out the UT Farm Stand, which brings organic Texas produce to Jester Plaza every other Wednesday during the school year.

Changing your diet can be challenging, but college is a great time to try out a plant-based diet — especially in Austin. According to The Permanente Journal, following a vegan or vegetarian diet has many benefits, such as lowered risk for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and hypertension. These diets can also help with weight management. By promoting better health, you will spend less money on medicine and doctor’s visits, leaving you with extra cash for other college expenses.

Part of college learning is how to take care of yourself, which involves giving your body the nutrients you need in the form of good food. Take the time to plan out healthy, fresh foods to eat while rushing around campus.

Jingling is an English junior from Georgetown.