• Eating-on-a-budget_menu_RGB-slider.jpg?fit=1000%2C1000
    The UCC cafeteria menu offers turkey and veggie burgers for under $5
  • Eating-on-a-Budget_RGB_JPEG-slider.jpg?fit=1000%2C1000
    The cafeteria’s yogurt parfaits include berries and granola

Healthy eating on a student budget

in Campus Life/Health by

   Do yourself a favor and throw away your microwave ramen, unless you are looking for sodium, saturated fat, and very little nutritional value. Ramen, like other college diet staples, may be inexpensive, but your health deserves more. Eating healthy on a student budget may seem difficult, but it’s not impossible.

   Is spending a few extra minutes packing food or just re-evaluating campus menu options too much work? Not really, affordable healthy eating choices are important and accessible, even for students on a budget. The UCC cafeteria staff says, “Healthy eating is an important start to the day, and for thinking.”

   An affordable healthy diet is especially important in Douglas County. “The diabetes rate in Douglas County is 11.4% in 2013, higher than the state (10.7%) in 2013 and national 2012 (9.3%) averages,” according to data cited in Douglas County’s new Blue Zones Project, a local and national directive to improve Americans’ health. Blue Zones Project also indicates that “31% of Douglas County adults were obese in 2013; 26% of Oregon adults were obese in 2013.”

   Eating snacks that are high in fiber is a great way to improve your health. Erica Sonnenburg and Justin Sonnenburg of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Stanford University, School of Medicine found in animal studies with mice that diet can affect not only you but the future population as well.

   “It appears that this ecosystem is also fragile and that dietary decisions made by one generation could affect the microbial ecosystem that future generations carry around inside them,” Erica Sonnenburg and Justin Sonnenburg said in an Op-Ed published by the Los Angeles Times. “While we all accept that we pass our genome onto our children, we now must appreciate that we also bequeath our microbiome.”

   “The amount of fiber we consume is critical because these complex carbohydrates are what feed the approximately 100 trillion bacteria that live in our gut (our microbiota). These bacteria are holding the reins to our health. And based on recent studies of the microbiota from hunter-gatherers in Tanzania, Venezuela, Peru, and Papua New Guinea, it is clear that our Western microbiota leaves a lot to be desired,” wrote Erica Sonnenburg in Psychology Today.”

   Foods low in sugar, low in fat, and high in protein are an easy way to get the most from what you eat and provide you with long lasting energy. However, navigating through campus options can be difficult.

   Besides the RiverHawk Bistro cafeteria (open Monday through Friday 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.), or the bookstore (open Monday through Friday 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.), students can find somewhat healthy food in various campus vending machines. The vending machines accept cash, debit and credit cards.

   The vending machine in the cafeteria includes food choices that are a better option than candy, such as crackers, fruit snacks, trail mix and gum. Trail mix from the vending machines cost one dollar and it contains peanuts, sunflower seeds, raisins and chocolate wrapped in candy coating. Yogurt pretzels cost one dollar and thirty five cents but they are also a healthier option than your typical candy bar and cost less than two dollars. Vending machines are an affordable alternative to packing food or eating at home for teachers working late or students taking night classes.

   The bookstore is supplied with protein bars, vegetable chips, and foods high in fiber. The bookstore is a convenient location for healthy eating choices because they accept cash, debit and credit cards, and SNAP.

   The cafeteria also provides healthy foods including: salads, sandwiches, tortilla wraps, yogurt parfaits and fresh fruit. The price range for these options remains mostly under $6. These options are minimally processed and have better health benefits that deep fried or greasy food.

   These nutrient dense options will leave you with enough energy to power through those 2 and a half hour math classes, that 3 hour biology lab, and the seemingly endless hours of homework. Despite the temptations of fried foods, your mind and body will thank you for making the healthy choice.