Expert says eating healthy as a student can be difficult but not impossible

Written by: 
Haeley van der Werf


A common belief among college students is they can’t afford to eat healthy. However, according to BYU–Hawaii professor Joel Reece, if a student knows what they need to eat and can plan out their meals, they will be able to maintain a balanced diet without going broke.

What a student needs to eat

Reece, an assistant professor in the Exercise and Sport Science Department, explained what a student should eat to be healthy. “If they know how much they should eat, that’s a good baseline. Eat good, nutrient-dense foods. That’s kind of hard with options like the cafeteria and with pricing.

“There’s a rule of thumb for someone to figure out how many calories they should eat. Take your body weight and multiply it by 14. That estimates how many calories you need to maintain your weight. Part of that rule of thumb is if you want to lose weight, you can put your ideal body weight in and multiply that by 14, or you can take your current weight and multiply it by 10.” Reece continued, “Once you know how many calories you need, you can break it down into how many carbohydrates you should have, how much protein you should have, and how much fat you should have.” Carbohydrates should make up 45 to 65 percent of your diet, he said, protein should make up 10 percent to 35 percent of your diet, and 25 to 35 percent of calories from fat.

How to eat healthy on a budget says habits like planning meals, buying generic brands, and avoiding shopping while hungry can help a person stay within budget.

“When it comes to saving money at the grocery store, planning is essential. Use one day each week to plan your meals for the upcoming week. Then, make a grocery list of what you need."

Reece demonstrated how to shop for food on campus with a challenge. He explained, “We call this the $12.50 challenge. The USDA says if you live in Hawaii, you should be able to spend $12 to $13 a day and get all the nutrients you need. On campus that is a little steep. It is more expensive on campus than Foodland, and Foodland is a little more expensive than Costco.”

The challenge involved finding a day’s worth of food with all of the nutrients and calories needed for $12.50. The twist was finding it all without leaving BYUH campus. For a student not on a meal plan, the cafeteria was not an option, as it took up most of their money for one meal. Breakfast from the C-Store, and lunch and dinner from the Seasider brought the total up to just over $13 if a student wanted to get 2,000 healthy calories in.

During the challenge, Reece said, “It’s tough, but it’s possible to stay within a $12 to $13 budget and get all the vegetables you need.”

He explained, “If a student could spend $4.25 on three meals and have enough variety to know they are getting at least five fruits and vegetables in those $4 meals, and those meals contain at least half whole grain, that would be pretty good. The only option right now for $4 is rice, beans, and half a sandwich.”

1. Eat a good breakfast.

2. If you must eat fast foods, choose wisely.

3. Keep healthy snacks on hand.

4. Eat plenty of foods rich in calcium.

5. If you need to lose weight, do it sensibly.

6. Limit your sugar intake.

7. Visit the dining hall salad bar.

8. Drink lots of water.

9. Enjoy your food.

Source: The Clarke University website


Date Published: 
Monday, February 11, 2019
Last Edited: 
Monday, February 11, 2019