It goes without saying that college students aren’t exactly in the upper financial bracket. So, if you’re in college and living in an apartment or even a dorm room, and don’t have a meal plan or would like to make your own meals, then this healthy grocery list for college students is for you!
Keep in mind, this isn’t a list of every single healthy grocery item, this is a list of healthy and inexpensive grocery items for college students on a budget.
- You generally want lean cuts of meat (low in fat) so you can decrease the amount of saturated fats you take in
- An exception to the rule is salmon. Salmon is higher in fat content than other forms of fish, but it’s got a ton of healthy fats in it, including lots of omega-3’s
- You can buy frozen! Seafood is great frozen because it stores well and is generally cheaper than fresh seafood
- Similarly, you can freeze fresh leftovers. For example, Safeway always has a good deal on chicken breast, but the amount they provide is too much for me, so I freeze a few of the breasts and keep them for the next week
- An alternative to animal protein is protein powder. It’s a cheap option too if you can pick a few tubs up during a sale
- If you’re vegetarian or lactose intolerant, then there are other forms of protein (think tofu) as well as vegetarian protein powders or protein powders that are lactose free
- Ground turkey
- Ground beef (90-99% lean)
- Chicken breast
- Sirloin steak
- Sliced turkey
- Sliced ham
- Greek yogurt
- Protein powder
- Quinoa (1 cup has 24g!)
- You want more fruits than vegetables – usually 2 servings of fruit, and 5 servings of vegetables
- If you have a hard time eating vegetables, you can try chopping them up and stir-frying them with your favorite sauce (mine is lemon juice + chili paste)
- Similarly, you could use your vegetables in a green smoothie (cucumber, spinach, kale, parsley, carrots, avocado)
- You can buy vegetables and fruits frozen. Frozen fruits work well for smoothies or as cold snacks, and frozen vegetables are great because not only can you buy medleys and get a variety of vegetables for cheap, but they also store well
- As for complex carbs, I generally advocate for whole grains. This is because whole grains contain the outer husk and inner germ, which contains a myriad of vitamins and minerals, as also has a strong fiber content. White grains have been refined and have lost the majority of these vitamins and minerals
- You can also freeze loaves of bread! It’s unlikely that I will go through a loaf of bread in a week, so I freeze what’s left at the end of the week for future use
- Apples, bananas, frozen berries (generally cheaper than fresh berries), oranges, kiwifruit, grapefruit, grapes, watermelon, cantaloupe, lemon, lime, the list goes on!
- Spinach, asparagus, zucchini, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, carrots, bell peppers, green beans, peas, edamame beans, kidney beans
- Whole grain rice, whole grain pasta (spaghetti, penne, farfalle, linguine, etc), whole grain bread, whole grain bagels, oats, buckwheat groats, quinoa, barley, rice cakes, potatoes, yams etc.
*Then there are carbohydrate alternatives, such as cauliflower rice, or using cauliflower as the base for pizza
- Fats are an essential part of any diet
- Some examples of fat function in the body include the function and regulation of hormones, as well as maintaining and supporting the lipid bilayer in a cell
- You want to stay away from saturated and trans fats, and embrace monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats instead
- Nuts are a great source of fat but are generally expensive, so I opt for medleys and get a ton of different nuts in the same bag. The serving size is usually ¼ cup, so one bag of assorted nuts will spread over a long time
- Peanut butter (there are other alternatives like almond or cashew, but they are generally more expensive)
- Safflower oil or sunflower oil
- Olive oil
- Cream cheese
- Cottage cheese
- Cheese in general
- Nuts – almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, pistachios, etc.
While there’s many more foods that could be listed on here, this list is conscious of health and financial concerns, and are generally foods that college students would actually want to eat or could figure out ways to include in their diet. Good luck and enjoy your time at college!