, frozen pizza and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches—Cheap and easy, these college diet staples work for students short on both time and cash. But while convenient, they lack flavor and nutrition, often resulting in the infamous freshman 15. Everyone knows that fruits and vegetables are key to a healthy diet—but these nutritional powerhouses unfortunately get a bum rap among college students, as they’re seen as boring and expensive. Let’s face it—after a long day of studying, pizza seems a lot more appetizing than broccoli. Add that to the fact that they require cooking—not just microwaving—it’s easy to see why vegetables have fallen by the wayside in the college kitchen.
But what if students knew that a healthy, delicious diet was not out of reach, and that it could accommodate their schedule and wallet? While not only providing nutrients necessary for a well-functioning body, eating natural and non-processed food can also solve and even prevent several health issues, promote weight loss, and provide a more satisfying (and delicious) alternative to processed, microwaveable foods. Furthermore, they cost the same, if not less than packaged foods, and can be prepared in the same amount of time it takes to have a pizza delivered.
So what’s the secret? A few simple cooking techniques and your local farmers’ market.
While farmers’ markets have grown incredibly popular in recent years, they’re often stigmatized as hangouts for trendy foodies with disposable incomes. But in reality, farmers’ markets actually tend to offer produce at cheaper prices than supermarkets, especially those around college campuses that take advantage of their captive market by jacking up prices.
How does this work? First of all, because you’re getting your food directly from the food grower, it doesn’t have to pass through a middleman, which often drives up the cost of food. Second, because it’s locally grown, it doesn’t require the expensive transportation that supermarket food often does. And third, the market only offers seasonal fruits and vegetables, which are produced much more efficiently and inexpensively than food that isn’t in season. For example, a bunch of supermarket asparagus runs from about $4.99–$6.99/lb. during the winter, whereas local farmers offer it at $2-3/lb. during the spring. Though supermarket asparagus will drop to about the same price (roughly $1.99–$2.99/lb.) around the same time, it still lacks the freshness and taste of fresh market asparagus—giving the market variety much more bang for your buck.
Because market produce is so fresh, it requires little preparation to make it taste good. And because it has traveled so little distance and has likely been picked only a day or two before you buy it, it has retained its natural flavor, therefore requiring little effort to make it taste good. In the time it takes to prepare a pot of ramen, you could stir-fry a succulent medley of fresh vegetables—which, served over rice with a side of protein and a splash of teriyaki sauce, makes a delicious and balanced meal.
When you also consider the fact that most local produce is free of harmful pesticides, you’ll realize that there’s really no reason not to buy locally, for the sake of both your health and your budget. Farmers’ markets tend to run on weekends, so on the occasion that you’re up before noon on a Saturday, check one out to discover a wide world of delicious—and affordable produce. To find one near you, visit www.localharvest.org.
By Lauren Silk