How to Eat Healthy When You Are Busy: A Guide for Students
Nutrition is the foundation of health. In this article, we list selected concepts that have a potential for a significant effect on the overall well-being, and, at the same time, can be followed by everyone regardless of circumstance.
1. Eat Often and Eat Smaller Portions
This is a prerequisite for good metabolism. If two people consume exactly the same amount of food in a day, the person who eats smaller portions will have faster metabolism. It’s not working as continuously. The longer you wait between the meals, the more your body will think that it’s in some kind of a starvation mode, and will start to conserve everything it gets just in case there will be no more food coming. It’s funny, but that’s how it works.
Did you know that 40% of American adults are obese? Many people don’t even realize that. I’ve heard many people say “I know I am big, but I am not THAT big.”
I am 5’4” and the biggest I ever was is 146 lbs, which is on the lower end of the ”overweight” classification, according to the CDC BMI calculator. Now, I am in a safe “normal” weight bracket with 118 lbs. To make any changes, we need to fully recognize our current condition first, even if it doesn’t look perfect now.
2. Cook More
Understandably, cooking seems time consuming at first. Think about the long-term picture though. Everything you eat today directly affects your health and well-being tomorrow. Our bodies are very adaptable, and it doesn’t take for them too long to start reflecting changes in our diets.
Investing time into cooking today will have several benefits down the road:
- You will improve your cooking skills and learn more about the different types food you are consuming;
- You will be able to save a ton of money over time;
- You will be able to enjoy home-cooked meals with your family and friends;
- You will be healthier as a result.
3. Plan Your Meals
Don’t let your school schedule be in charge of your nutrient intake. Eating without a plan is like walking with your eyes closed and hoping you will get where you want to go.
Make a meal plan that supports your life goals and works for your schedule and lifestyle. Yes, it takes dedication and discipline to stick to the plan. However, the benefits are far greater than the initial costs.
With a meal plan, you will be able to:
- Have higher energy levels. Here is a good list of 23 Best Foods for Energy. Now you are completely in charge of what you feed your body. Isn’t it empowering just by itself?
- Boost memory. Certain types of food are able to increase your mental focus and enhance your learning ability.
- Save money. I think this is self-explanatory. Eating out can deplete your budget very quickly, review this list for inspiration.
- Reduce the stress level. Meal planning provides you with serenity and peace of mind. When the prep work is done, you can stop thinking about food altogether and enjoy your life more. Think about how much hurdle would be saved, if you didn’t have to think about where to eat.
- Save time. When you are cooking for yourself, you always have a packed lunch or a snack with you. It saves time on eating out. Of course, it doesn’t mean you don’t go out to eat with friends anymore. You will just have fewer days when you are frantically looking for a place to buy lunch and eat it in 45 minutes.
4. Choose Whole Foods That You Like
Here is a list of some whole foods: Apples, Carrots, Oatmeal, Everything dark green kale, spinach, green beans, broccoli, Blueberries, Almonds, Walnuts, Avocado, Sprouted Bread, Beans, Eggs, and more.
You don’t have to eat what you don’t like. Choose 3-4 options you like, and combine them in your meals.
5. Keep Only Healthy Snacks at Home
Popcorn is an excellent snack, especially if you get the organic popcorn that is made without the additives. When you buy snacks, look at the list of the ingredients. If there are more than 5 ingredients in that list, don’t buy it.
6. Buy Drinks with 0 Calories
Ditch the high-calorie drinks, like juices and sodas. Almost all juices that are commercially sold will have added sugar. Added sugar will give you a short-term energy boost, but it will drain your energy later.
On the contrary, freshly made juices are good for you. Unfortunately, they usually are super expensive. You can make juices or smoothies at home and take them with you. You can even prep them in advance for the next two days.
7. Eat More Beans, and Less Pasta
Both beans and pasta are very affordable and filling. On average, pasta has more calories due to having more carbs and sugar and less protein. Beans and lentils are more nutritious and don’t have the extra carbs that will usually be stored as fat in our bodies.
8. Protein Bars
Protein bars make an excellent snack. However, not all protein bars are created equal. Some of them have too much sugar and not enough protein. As a rule of thumb, a good mix would be more than 15 g of protein and less than 5 g of sugar.
Another important factor in choosing the right protein bar is taste. Unfortunately, when you find bars with the right mix of protein and sugar, they tend to taste like cardboard. I have a few exceptions that I like. After many trials and errors, my favorite protein bar right now is Quest. I’ve tried all flavors, and they are really good. I usually buy them on Amazon, which is cheaper than GNC.
Alternatively, you can make protein bars at home. The cost of a good-quality protein bars range from
Just add a scoop of 0-sugar protein powder to them, so that they are more nutritionally balanced.
9. Invest in Good Multi-Vitamin
Taking a good multivitamin keeps the body in a good shape continuously. Another alternative is to eat healthy when time allows. This kind of behavior weakens the body and may result in some common bacteria or virus finding its way into it.
I hope that you agree with the concept of consistent nutrient intake. Below I will share a few rules of thumb for vitamin selection.
Consumption of manufactured vitamins has one main challenge – low absorbance rate. Here are some of the reasons for the low absorbance rate:
- Binding agents. Some brands prescribe one pill per day, while others recommend 2 in the morning and 2 in the evening. In the first example the manufacturer had to pack the same amount of nutrients into a smaller pill, and most likely used a binding agent. Now, your body will need to unbind it, and may not succeed by the time the pill is removed. Just avoid one-a-day type of vitamins.
- Sugars. Sugar or high fructose syrup can cause an insulin spike which will prevent some nutrients from being absorbed. Simply avoid vitamins with sugar in the ingredient list.
- Extra coating. Vitamins that look shiny have extra coating on them and will take longer to release into your system. Take non-shiny or encapsulated vitamins.
More on this topic can be found in this article called 90% of Vitamins are Synthetic.
Overall, thinking about eating habits in a long-term scale is a winning strategy. What works daily, can be detrimental for one’s health if reputed throughout a year. To check if some action would make a good habit, ask yourself if you would want to do it weekly for the next 5 years. Every day counts and every week is another chance to start treating your body with respect that it deserves for serving you so well.
Our related article is How to Save Time and Money on Groceries.
Good article: College Guide to Eating Healthy.
Please share with us your own food-related tricks below. We would love to know more!