Opinion: Eating healthy is more cost effective for students

Meal prepping is a better investment than buying cheap fast food

Students' busy lives and tasks can distract them from taking care of themselves, which is understandable  — it’s not easy to balance work and aspirations, let alone maintaining a healthy diet on top of an already challenging schedule.

Not enough people, especially students, are consistently eating the healthiest foods available. Besides time management, there is a misconception that maintaining a healthy diet is too expensive. 

It is actually cheaper to buy and make healthy meals ahead of time and will cost a student less money than eating at on-campus restaurants. 

According to menus listed in six popular restaurants in the Memorial Union, the average meal costs about $8.72. When purchased twice a day during the school week, the cost comes out to about $90 for the five day period.

This is more than enough money to buy a week's worth of healthy ingredients that can last more than a week and be used to meal prep ahead of time. 

Jenna Heller, a registered dietitian at the Sun Devil Fitness Complex who oversees the Nutrition Education Program, said that oftentimes comparisons between healthy and unhealthy food relies on cost per calorie which can lead to inaccuracies in the nutritional value of more cost effective meals.

According to a 2016 food and health survey by the International Food Information Council Foundation, taste, price and healthfulness were the top three factors respectively for Americans in deciding which foods and beverages to consume.

Heller added that messages within the media can promote misconceptions about healthy foods, making it seem challenging for the average consumer to obtain quality ingredients and to eat healthy meals.

"There's so much focus on expensive supplements, cleanses, and organic vegetables and produce that's not always accessible to certain people," Heller said.

These misconceptions not only make it seem as though the only options to eat healthy must meet a very high standard of quality, but contributes to the idea that healthy food can't possibly be cheaper than fast food.

“In daily life for students, what I’d like to see are things like whole grains, beans, lentils and legumes, with some type of fruits and vegetables, some of which are very cheap,” Heller said.  

By buying cheaper ingredients such as these, you're not only maintaining a healthier diet compared to eating fast food, but also a cheaper diet in the long run. 

"If you’re preparing food at home, that’s almost always going to be the more budget friendly option," Heller said. "Even compared with (foods) that seemed really cheap at the outset.”

Meal prepping may seem challenging at first. Through research, including videos and articles, meal prepping can easily become viable for college students and can be a stepping stone to healthier eating and spending habits. 

 Reach the columnist at msharm28@asu.edu and follow @MarkSharma96 on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the authors’ and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

Want to join the conversation? Send an email to opiniondesk.statepress@gmail.com. Keep letters under 500 words and be sure to include your university affiliation. Anonymity will not be granted.

Like The State Press on Facebook and follow @statepress on Twitter.

Get the best of State Press delivered straight to your inbox.