EAT healthy when you're young and busy — and feel good about it, too!

How to Start

Getting a balanced meal with a busy schedule can be tough. A good place to start: Use the U.S. Department of Agriculture's newly recommended "My Plate," which describes a balanced meal as one that consists of the following: half fruits and veggies, and half whole grains and proteins.

Bring on the Fruits and Veggies

One thing that students struggle with is getting fresh fruit and veggies, according to Shannon Delaney, registered dietician and health promotion specialist at GatorWell.

GatorWell offers health counseling and advice to students at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla.

One reason for this is that fruits and veggies can be more expensive than convenient vending machine options, and they simply don't stay edible for as long as processed foods do.

Still, consuming these foods with a busy class or work schedule — and on a tight budget — is not impossible. At the grocery store, look for seasonal options, which usually are cheaper, Delaney says. Strawberries in the winter can be cheaper, and apples in the fall usually are priced lower than other fruits such as blueberries.

If looking up seasonality of fruits and veggies isn't an option for you — and for many students, it isn't — stick with the basics, Delaney says. For fruits, Apples, bananas and oranges tend to be cheapest, she says. As for veggies, carrots and spinach usually are on the cheaper side. Try local farmers markets for cheap produce, too.

peanut butter sandwich

Try the Basics for Lunch

Although other options exist, one easy, portable lunch Delaney recommends?: a peanut butter sandwich on whole grain or whole wheat bread. Peanut butter acts as a good source of protein, Delaney says, and whole grain or whole wheat bread also is healthy.

frozen dinners

Fast Food Myths Debunked and How to Make Healthy Choices While on the Go

Eating veggies and fruits to boost health is no mystery. However, not ruling out fast food and still being able to maintain a healthy diet may come as some of a surprise to students. Doing this is actually possible, Delaney says.

"A hamburger and fries at McDonald's can be OK if that's what you're really wanting," Delaney says.

At restaurants, choosing whole grain bread on sandwiches or whole wheat tortillas for Mexican fare also can help fulfill one of the "My Plate" requirements.

Where fast food eating can go too far? "Super-sizing," Delaney says.

"The reality is we have busy schedules," she says. "We're gonna end up at a fast food restaurant. It's more about how it fits in the overall pattern."

In other words, moderation is key. Calories aren't the enemy, but choosing smaller menu options can keep calorie consumption in check. The most important thing, Delaney says, is being satisfied.

Plan Ahead for Dinner

In the wintertime, making soups and stews for a week-long period then storing them in a freezer can save time — and money. Wrap them in plastic wrap or store them in a Ziploc bag or Glad container, freeze them and then microwave them.

Frozen dinners like those offered from Healthy Choice and Lean Cuisine can be OK, Delaney says. However, with some of them offering only 300 calories each, many don't provide students with the fuel they need. Again, calories aren't the enemy.

Delaney recommends supplementing these frozen meals with an extra veggie, like broccoli, to add extra calories — thus, energy for your brain and body.

To Save Money, Stick with Staples

Beans and rice — whether canned or dried — can offer a hearty supply of protein, Delaney says. And with some beans costing about 99 cents a can, they won't break the bank either.

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This website is maintained by Melinda Carstensen.