How to Eat Healthy in College

Eating healthy at Jamestown Community College

Moving to college brings all kinds of unfamiliar stresses to the lives of both parents and young adults. Even those students that finish high school thinking they’re the most independent and self-sufficient, get antsy about having to fend for themselves in a new environment. Whether you’re moving 45 minutes down the road, out of state, or even an ocean away from the safety of home, looking after yourself in a dorm isn’t as difficult as you may think; while it’s not always pretty, it’s as enjoyable as you make it.

A huge aspect of living by yourself is eating. After spending 17 or 18 years trusting that you’re coming home from school to a meal planned and cooked by someone else, the art of eating properly becomes a seemingly terrifying reality when the responsibility is thrown on you and only you. In this blog post, I hope to pull back this fear and show you that it really isn’t as tough or as scary as it seems. There are three main points I’m going to cover: what to eat, where to get it, and how to keep costs down.

freezer full of food

What to eat in college

Firstly, what on earth are you going to cook for yourself? Start small, you’re not going to be able to pull together an enormous roast dinner on a dime like your mom seems to do in the blink of an eye. Likewise, the steak that your dad grills perfectly all while watching the Bills, beverage in one hand and phone in the other? Probably not going to be a reality for you in the dorms on your first night, hot stuff. Your parents can cook without too much thought because they’ve got decades worth of practice on you. They’ve made mistakes, thrown things together, and poked around on the internet for longer than you’ve been alive, so give yourself some room to learn.

Start with some nice basic meals and create your own flare along the way. Cooking pasta is as easy as riding a bike; while it’s boring on its own, throw some cheese, herbs, and diced vegetables in there and you officially gain permission to give your new dish a fancy Italian name. Chicken is an unbelievable item not only from a health perspective, but also due to the fact that it seems to go with absolutely anything you throw at it. Cooking your first chicken breast is like reaching base camp on Mount Everest. Chicken is super easy to cook (believe it or not), but knowing that you’ve just cooked something that can kill you if done wrong really does give you the confidence to tackle anything.

Cooking really isn’t as hard as you think, and with all the resources available online, the opportunities are endless. Research the foods that are both good for you and your wallet, and then go for gold when it comes to mixing your items. You’re an artist in that battlefield of a kitchen. Be creative.

Where to get your food during college

Your next question will of course be: where am I going to get all this stuff? Luckily for you there is a decent variety of options available in and around Jamestown! Let’s start with JCC. Living in the dorms gets you five meals a week. Personally I use that for lunch every day as it’s quick and easy and means I don’t have to bother buying individual things to eat at lunch time, which tend to be expensive. The food at the cafeteria is good quality, the sub/wrap bar is super popular at lunch time, and the daily specials give plenty of variety on a day to day basis.

Outside of campus, there are plenty of options. If buying fast food is your goal, there is a decent variety within walking distance of campus. If cooking for yourself is a goal, Walmart, Aldi, and Wegmans are your big three, and the shuttle from the res halls can get you there.

Another quick tip on finding good food for cheap, make friends! Making friends often gives you somewhere to go for dinner off campus and it’s fun to hang out with someone at their house!

freezer and fridge with doors open, seeing food

How to keep costs down as a college student

Cost is going to heavily impact where you get your food from. Food tends to be one of those items where if you spend a little more, you’ll probably get a bit better quality. That being said, you don’t have to demolish your bank account to get decent food.

Wegmans has some awesome organic items and generally has some really nice quality meats and vegetables; the only downside is that it’s the most expensive of your big three options. While you may think it’s not too bad to begin with, you’re not going to be earning loads of money during the semester so it may not necessarily be sustainable.

Walmart and Aldi are awesome. Walmart has everything you need, without the fancy brands and packaging. It’s nice and cheap and has anything that any other grocery store would have. I started off shopping at Wegmans and then very quickly realized just how much money I could save at Walmart for different things on my list.

Aldi is your super star. It’s owned by Trader Joe’s, so the quality is up there with the best of them. Much of their stock is simply unbranded stuff that is the same as what you’d get at the big grocery stores, but keeps its prices super low. Aldi should be the go-to for fruits, vegetables, and anything else that is normally an expensive item elsewhere. So, before you turn left to follow the big bright lights of Walmart, glance to your right and say hello to the innocent looking but very powerful Aldi right across the road.

You got this

The motto of this blog is, don’t be scared. Cooking isn’t some big scary parent thing that they magically figured out. It’s a fun trip down a path full of mistakes, lessons, and creativity. It’s like riding a bike. Once you learn, you can ride whatever bike you like, no matter how long you’ve gone without it. You can learn to ride a bike without a helping hand from your parents, training wheels, or in some cases solid ground.

You can learn to cook without help from those who know, instructions on the internet, or in some cases a smoke alarm. Start simple, use all the resources you can get your hands on, and be smart with what you spend your money on.

Jakob, student, gives thumbs up

About the author

JJ Jayhawk

I'm the mascot of Jamestown Community College! As the resident bird here at JCC, I'll be sharing cool news, events, and more around campus.