Aw, man… gotta love cafeteria food.

Q: I am a college student with a college student budget. I am getting married next year and I want to be fierce! Not only that I wanna be healthy and keep the weight off. I wanna eat healthy but heck it’s cheaper to eat unhealthy food than it is to eat healthy food. I need a guide or some kind of help picking the right things but using the budget I have. HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

First and foremost, I’ll be looking forward to my invite in the mail. [insert serious face]


College, for me, was where I gained the most weight. I had free reign over what I ate, how much of it I ate and with one swipe of my card, I had access to whatever the hell I wanted. Because my parents pretty much controlled what food I had access to and just how much of it I could get a hold of… it wasn’t a lesson I learned on my own, and I suffered for it. Big time.

Gaining weight at a rate of 20lbs a year was pretty rough, but I didn’t leave myself much choice. I was always indulging. Always overeating. I never practiced control and, because all my pants were elastic around the top and not “regular,” I never really noticed how much weight I was putting on. Actually, I remember having “the perfect jeans” as a freshman and, by the end of freshman year I realized they no longer fit. I simply attributed it to them shrinking in the wash too much, and went on my merry way. Delusional.

I made the decision to stop eating red meat and pork as a junior in high school and experienced a bit of weight loss, but I wasn’t aware enough to realize that just because you restrict yourself in one way… doesn’t mean you won’t overindulge in another. In other words, cutting out forms of meat wouldn’t protect me from overdoing it on the refined and processed foods. My best friend – a vegetarian, and also a size 4 – and I would eat every single day together… and I never noticed how much smaller her portion sizes were than mine. Again.. just not aware.

I was a hustler, too – I was steady braiding hair in order to keep some food in my fridge. I couldn’t buy much with $50, so I was always going for the cheap food – the top ramen, the capri suns, the kool-aid bursts, anything microwaveable – in an effort to stretch my measly lil’ $50. Because I had no self-control, I would slaughter that stuff – all of it – within a week. “Well, it’s all got to go sometime.. might as well be right now.” Clearly, I wasn’t thinking.

The caf was… well, ugh. The caf was hit or miss. Some days they’d go all out with the dishes and sides… other days, it was “all fried everything” and you couldn’t escape it. If we were lucky, there was batter out to make waffles… but you couldn’t bank on it. Sure, there’s a salad bar, but that just isn’t as fun as the every day chicken and rice.

I hope you can see why I’m detailing my experiences with food and college… learn from my mistakes.

With college, there’s this weird time-space continuum where, before you know it, a month has blitzed by and you’re kinda pissed about it. The reality is, you’re so wrapped up in school and your social life that you don’t notice how time is moving so quickly around you. Not only that, but for many of us, living off-campus is an unwanted struggle (sure, you might desire the privacy, but it’s not always worth it) and living in the dorms means you likely have limited fridge space and no kitchen. Having said that… in the instances where I might feel inclined to tell you to spend a little time in the kitchen… we’re going to have to, instead, commit a cardinal sin: buy foods that come in wrappers. [insert loud groan]

If you have a fridge? Use it. I’m serious. Use your fridge for a snack spot, and all of your snacks should require refrigeration. Think of those carrot, celery, or whatever else type snack packs. Not the ones with the creamy ranch-like substance in them, but the kind that come in the large container. Get a bag of celery, some peanut butter… and pow. A nice snack.

If your school was anything like mine, you’ll have access to some-place-where-you-can-get-non-cafeteria-food. That may be a fast food joint, or (like my HBCU) they may get together and fry up some chicken, throw some sauce on it, and sell it to you at a ridiculous price. No ordering out. Whatever it is… avoid it.  That really leads up to my next point.

When it comes to food, college living is much like real world living… but with much less money. Your take on food should be the same – limit the fried, limit the creamy, limit the dough-ey stuff… especially if you can’t verify it’s origin – but you’ll really want to be careful since your activity levels won’t be consistent. Your sugar intake should be limited as much as possible, but – again – that’s no different from real life. It does mean you’re gonna have to leave the capri suns and heaven knows what else alone.

I have a few more, but every college is different… so I think it’d be more fun to leave this one up to Team BGG2WL (for now!) I got a few awesome responses via twitter… so I’m positive they have more great suggestions than I do. Let’s hear it, y’all! Any snack suggestions? Ways to keep it fit in college? Whadya got?