Eating healthy costs more, but benefits outweigh prices

(U-WIRE) COLUMBIA, S.C. – What’s in your pantry?

Cheez-Its, ramen noodles, cookies, frozen Banquet dinners, EasyMac, hot dogs?

Fresh fruits and vegetables, Lean Cuisine, Special K, canned chicken or tuna?

“Eating healthy is expensive,” said Nick Isganitis, a third-year psychology student at the University of South Carolina. Isganitis, like many college students, struggles with buying healthy foods on a tight budget.

Professor Teresa Moore, a clinical associate professor in the department of exercise science and a registered nutritionist, said it’s difficult for anyone on a low budget to eat healthy.

“A lot of fresh fruits and vegetables are more costly … but packaged foods are high in sodium and fat,” Moore said.

Hayley McLeod, a second-year biology student, said she likes to cook and doesn’t have much trouble buying healthy foods, but time restraints often become a problem.

“One major drawback to healthy eating is the time it takes to prepare. When I get out of a late evening class or only have a short break for lunch, I don’t have the energy or time to chop fresh veggies or cook lean meat,” McLeod said. “I do have time to go by Burger King.”

McLeod also said raw ground beef is around $4 per pound, while you can get a whole burger at a fast food restaurant for $1.

As for the types of foods students should buy while still on a low budget, Moore said eliminating certain choices will make for a healthier diet.

“When you do pick a food, be careful of what you pick,” Moore said. She said students should eliminate sugar sodas and replace it with water, eliminate fried foods, limit butter and high fat dressings and even make tea.

“It’s good for you,” Moore said.

She said fresh fruit is always an option, but if it gets too expensive, fruit canned in its own juice is good too. She also said pretzels, graham crackers and bagels were healthy snack options.

Moore said a choice of Lean Cuisine opposed to Hungry Man is better when it comes to frozen dinners. This could be an area where students might have to spend a little more.

At Publix, meals like Lean Cuisine, Healthy Choice and Smart Ones range from $2.29 to $3.19, while Banquet meals are under $1.50 and often have deals of five for $5.

Moore said she opposed the idea of purchasing ramen noodles because students were better off getting low-fat Campbell’s Soup and pairing that with half a sandwich.

“I would rather see a student make themselves a sandwich than go with that,” Moore said.

She said to purchase sandwich meats, light or whole wheat breads, light mayonnaise or mustard and, if students want potato chips, baked chips are a smart way to go.

She said to stay away from additives and preservatives and even try organic foods.

Isganitis said he hopes once he gets out of school he’ll have a bigger budget and more time to cook food.

According to Moore, there is still hope for staying healthy as a college student on a low budget.

“You have to know what you’re looking for and you have to make those choices,” Moore said.

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