The traditional ‘student diet’ is something of a joke in today’s culture. Sitcoms have long depicted broke students investing in countless cans of baked beans and cheap freezer meals. And, we’ve all laughed along at these initial attempts at independence and cooking.
Until, that is, we’re faced with our own student lifestyles, and we realize that ‘student food’ is less about cooking inability, and more about budget. The simple fact is that healthy shopping on a college budget is often an impossible goal. Even if you know how to cook yourself gourmet treats, you’re far more likely to slip into those student stereotypes as the reality of your budget hits. And, we’re sorry to break it to you, but doing so isn’t exactly set to spell fantastic news for your health.
The reality is that, far from being comic cupboard additions, student staples can do some damage health-wise if you stick with them for the duration of your studies. Here, we’re going to discuss just a few of the health risks you face and what you could potentially do to avoid them.
Damage to your body
For one, student diets heavy in high-sugar jarred foods and calorific processed freezer stuff can do real damage to your body. In some cases, the risks here are evident, with such go-tos opening you up to a whole host of potential health complaints, including –
- Heart conditions
None of these are good news, and they aren’t even the last of the risks you’ll face. Studies show that it’s also not at all uncommon for diets low in fresh veg, etc. to leave students severely lacking in crucial nutrients. After all, we require balance to ensure that we’re getting everything we need. A balance which, sadly, is unlikely to make an appearance on your shopping list right now.
It’s vital, too, to think what all this high-sugar eating is doing to your teeth. Throughout your studies, even just sugary jars of sauce leave you at a far higher risk of decay, which could see you with no choice but to face the cost of a dental crown or other such treatment. And, that’s only going to lead to even higher expenses than if you had just eaten well in the first place!
Damage to your mind
In fairness, the majority of students know that their diet staples aren’t exactly the best for their bodies. What fewer seem to realize is that what you eat can also make a massive difference from a mental perspective.
There certainly seems to be evidence that poor diets can contribute to many common student stresses and become precursors for issues such as depression. Even outside of college settings, it’s plain to see that healthy eating, in general, can help to boost the production of positive neurotransmitters, while poor diets leave our bodies sluggish and struggling to feel good.
Admittedly, these impacts aren’t immediate, and one unhealthy meal isn’t going to lead to any real notable mental decline. Yet, when unhealthy food sources are all you have to turn to during your student years, there’s a strong argument that your mental health is going to struggle for it.
The risk of ongoing bad habits
Given that college is many of our first forays into independent living, and thus cooking our own meals, there’s also an argument that it could lead to lifelong bad habits that are difficult to break. Certainly, those who start their kitchen careers off the back of ready meals and pre-made jars are more liable to default to these in the future. And, when such habits stick, they can begin to really take their toll on overall health.
What changes can you make?
Of course, we’re well aware that making significant changes when money is tight isn’t always easy. That said, there are a few things you can do to ensure your student budget stretches to healthier options, and they include –
- Always shopping with a set meal list to save money
- Turning to staples like tinned tomatoes instead of jars
- Buying fresh foods in small doses to avoid food waste
- Stocking a decent spice rack
- Paying attention to your nutritional needs
- Buying own-brand foods
- Always looking out for deals and coupons
While these steps are unlikely to change your cooking habits overnight, they are a significant step in the right direction. And, in the end, they could be just the thing to see you enjoying a relatively healthy student life after all.