As a student living on a budget, eating a healthy or balanced diet can be difficult, especially when there are far more cheap and unhealthy options available. It can be hard to argue against €5 chips and chicken goujons from Nubar.
Cheap and unhealthy food is a quick way out for many students, it’s a low fuss, no effort means of getting fed. However, this can lead to poor eating habits and diets that are high in calories, fat and sugar, but low in nutrients that are found in fresh fruit and vegetables.
According to the HSE, in 2016, only 1 in 4 adults (15+) ate 5 portions of fruit or vegetables a day. This lack of healthy eating can lead to short and long term effects such as obesity, which can commonly cause heart failure, stroke and diabetes.
The over reliance on cheap fast foods is a trap that many students fall into simply because they believe that eating healthy is too expensive. This is a common misconception.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, unhealthy ready made food is generally cheaper as it is often bought in bulk and is mass produced. It is often less expensive for restaurants and shops to buy in several kilos of potato wedges which are frozen versus several kilos of fresh and ripe fruit that will go off in a few days’ time.
These fresher foods, such as fruits and vegetables, are therefore a bigger risk to the seller and so they will often charge more to make up for any possible losses.
This is why your cans of Coke are often a few euros cheaper than a freshly made smoothie. For one, there are more ingredients in smoothie, but they also use fresh fruit, are made to order and don’t have long expiry dates unlike Coke. This is also why your McDonald’s burger is less expensive than your Chopped salad and smoothie. McDonald’s is cheaper sure, but the salad will provide you with a prolonged energy boost as well as all the nutrients you actually need.
Premade healthy foods such as salads can be expensive for a student, despite them being more nutritious than goujons. This is due to the farming, processing, manufacturing, packaging and transporting involved which in turn increase the cost.
According to University of Dundee lecturer in Nursing, Charlie Middleton, eating healthy is less about how much money you’re willing to spend, but more about how much knowledge, skill and time you have.
Though cooking a meal from scratch may seem daunting and cumbersome at first, buying the basics such as lentils, beans, chickpeas, potatoes, bread and pasta is cheaper in the long run than a ready made meal.
Pair that with fruit or vegetables that will last you only a few days (you can get two one-person dinners out of one pepper) and the cost per individual meal is far lower than if you were to buy the same premade. There are plenty of student friendly, easy and quick meals to be found online which help you to utilise every part of your food haul so as to limit waste and make it as cost effective as possible for you.
Not only are you paying the same or possibly less than you typically would, you’re getting all the nutritional value out of the fresh food simply by buying smart and putting a little more effort into your meals.
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