A few days ago, a friend told me that she had only eaten an apple all day — she laughed and brushed it off as a normal occurrence. However, college students’ poor eating habits are no joking matter. They could seriously place their health and academic performance at risk, whether it be for lack of time, money or knowledge. However, even if it’s not easy, it is still possible to feed oneself in a time-efficient and affordable way. The same way Gandhi is said to have gone two weeks without sugar before telling a sugar-obsessed kid to quit the habit, I speak both with evidence and from personal experience.
College students don’t have any shortage of work on their hands; what they seem to lack is time and money. This makes eating — especially healthy eating — an uphill battle. The high cost of tuition, school supplies and rent significantly limits students’ income, and accumulating tests and projects keep students perpetually busy. However, a body can only take so much. Studies show that eating unhealthy foods and skipping meals are likely to have short and long term health consequences, like weight gain and cardiovascular disease. Also, not eating healthy meals may decrease productivity, making unhealthy meals counterproductive.
Dining halls do not always cater to students’ schedules. The fact that dining halls open on weekends at 11 a.m. — with the exception of Jasper Kane Cafe and Third Avenue North Dining Hall — may cause students to skip breakfast. NYU should have dining halls operate longer hours, while still considering the welfare of its employees.
A few years ago, on a low budget and a student’s schedule, I made eating healthy a priority. At NYU Washington D.C., one of the most expensive cities in the U.S., I would spend around $175 dollars a month on food. I spent less than $100 in Puerto Rico, portions of vegetables and fruits included. Whether with or without a meal plan, the key is planning.
This week, I made sure to plan out my meals and empirically, I’ve had more energy and better spirits than previous weeks. The first step is to want to eat healthier and to recognize what your body needs. Next, invest in a few essential utensils like recyclable to-go containers, water bottles and silverware. Above all, organizing meals beforehand is essential. If you have a meal plan, verify the menus at dining halls before you start the day, making it a deliberate part of your day rather than a passive event you don’t think about. Most dining halls have to-go options, and you can even buy a meal ahead — a good option when buying dinner is to take care of the next day’s breakfast, especially if dining halls open late. When cooking, which may be a more affordable method, do it in bulk and make a few meals, eliminating the need to individually cook every single meal you eat. You can take your pre-made meal with you in a container and heat it up in campus microwaves. For some, structuring your meals like this may seem arduous, but it doesn’t have to be. Eating is a very social thing. Cooking with friends and sharing meals may be good not only for your wallet but for your emotional well-being too. If you’re in such a rush that you can’t make food ahead of time, make sure you pack something with you. Nuts, fruit and water make good snacks.
Healthy eating shouldn’t be this inaccessible and hard. John Stuart Mill thought it was necessary to satisfy the lower pleasures before developing the higher pleasures. Put simply, students will not learn effectively over the symphonies of their roaring stomach. NYU should make meal plans more affordable and dining hours that take into account students’ food accessibility. However, while advocating for these longer-term goods, students should try to organize their lives to meet their basic needs. Their health and productivity may depend on it.
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Email Ignangeli Salinas-Muñiz at [email protected].