Budget-friendly Ways to Eat Well

The following post is written by Taylor Pritchard, Student Engagement and Campus Outreach Coordinator for NC State’s Student Health Center.

From the endless options at dining halls and cafés sprinkled around campus to the smorgasbord of eatery opportunities on Hillsborough Street, we can all agree that college students are constantly surrounded by the temptation of food.  So why not make sure your food is helping sustain you in the best way possible?  Straight from the campus dietitians themselves…here are some great ways food sustains your budget, your energy and most importantly your health.


Sustain Your Budget

Shop at a Farmers Market

Students constantly remark that eating fresh and organic is too expensive for limited student budgets.  Dietitians recommend visiting a Farmers Market for some amazing deals on fresh produce.  Keep in mind many of these produce stands practice organic farming but simply haven’t been certified organic by the USDA.  If you’re curious, just ask!  Plus, when you shop at a Farmers Market you’re also shopping local, which is a sustainable way to support our state and its farmers.  Lastly, many local Farmers Markets accept Food Stamps as a part of their SNAP program.  So, yes, it’s possible to sustain your health, budget and shop local at the same time.

Aim for budget-friendly sources of protein

NC State dietitians always advocate for student-friendly (high protein and low cost) sources of protein to keep you full and satisfied such as peanut butter and cans of tuna, chicken or beans.  Most of these foods store well in residence halls or backpacks without refrigeration so there is no fear of buying food that may spoil before you have the chance to eat it.

Buy what you need and can use

One of our dietitian’s best tips for sustaining your budget while eating a balanced meal is to only buy what you need.  Local grocery stores often have pay-per-pound salad bars enabling you to buy what you know you’ll eat and not waste money on produce that will mold before you can eat it. For example, instead of buying a whole head of lettuce, head to the salad bar and fill up a small tin of spring mix. Sustain your budget and shop smart.

Feed the Pack Food Pantry

If you don’t have enough resources to purchase the food you need, NC State’s food pantry is tucked away in Harrelson Hall. Food is donated here for anyone who needs it – no questions asked.


Sustain Your Energy

Limit processed foods and sugar

Processed foods or those with high levels of sugar may give you a nice energy buzz for five minutes but expect to crash hard.  These foods cause a rapid spike in blood sugar followed by a rapid drop, leaving you tired and cranky.  Sustain your energy and limit these foods in your diet.

Be conscious of your macronutrient balance

Dietitians recommend pairing carbs with a protein or fat source to create the perfect macronutrient balance.  These awesome combinations slow digestion, keep you fuller longer, and moderate blood sugars for improved energy and less cravings.  Lastly, stay full and satisfied longer by focusing on fiber, which can be found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and whole grain products.

Snack smart

Looking for shelf-stable proteins to boost energy? Try:

  • Foil packed tuna
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Edamame (fresh or dry roasted)
  • Jerky (turkey or low sodium varieties are best)
  • Snack bars with high protein levels

Throw any of these non-perishable, quick and healthy snacks into your backpack with a piece of fruit to avoid stopping at vending machines or coffee shops, which usually offer high caloric and fatty snacks.


Sustain Your Health

Healthy diets are all about balance

Eat from all the food groups and indulge in moderation.

Choose nutrient dense foods

Focus on vegetables and fruits that are packed with vitamins, minerals and nutrients we all need. Fill half your plate with these colorful items.

If your grandma wouldn’t recognize an ingredient or food item, don’t eat it

Try your best to stay away from processed foods that come in packages or have seemingly-endless shelf life.  Remember, fresh is always best.


Want more information? Check out nutrition services and resources provided by NC State Student Health.

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