By: Alison K.
Isn't it ironic that graduate students in nutrition are often caught in an economic situation that limits their availability to healthy foods? As researchers in this field, it is critical for students to make the best of their financial situation in order to maintain nutritional health. It's easy to slip into buying cheaper, less healthful foods when reaching the end of the month of a graduate student salary, right?
Having grown up in an economically disadvantaged family, I experienced from childhood on how to make due with limited resources. Having four growing children, it was not easy for my mother to create balanced, healthy meals on a very tight budget. I recall looking through newspaper ads, growing a garden, and making homemade bread in order to try to maintain a healthy eating lifestyle.
I experienced similar situations during my undergraduate. Having to maintain a hydroponic garden in a Manhattan apartment was no easy feat! However, I made a valiant effort to try to keep my diet healthy despite my limitations. It seems the trend continues through my graduate career. Now in Davis, an agricultural Mecca, I am able to grow my own produce for most of the year. But, there are still discussions amongst other graduate students about how hard it is to maintain a healthy diet on a small income.
This is nothing foreign to the majority of Americans. It is no wonder that families eat fast food and buy processed or canned food items. Beyond the lack of understanding many people have about food, the price tag may be the largest contributing factor when it comes to food choice. As graduate students in nutrition, it is important for us to develop cost effective ways of maintaining healthy eating. Even more importantly, it is important for us to document and disseminate our innovative ways to communities around us.
For me, I try to eat simply. When I talk with people around me about how I eat the way that I do, I just tell them to buy whole foods. Do your research—buy what is on sale. Try to buy organic, if possible. Grow whatever you can. Make your own bread. It takes time, but it's not out of the realm of possibility. When buying prepared foods, look at the ingredients. Michael Pollen's In Defense of Food limits prepared foods to 5 ingredients. Not to say Pollen is an expert, but I think this is a good rule to try and follow.
Above all else, listen to your body. Don't go to the grocery
store hungry. Before grocery shopping, make a list and
limit yourself to what you need. Despite the financially
challenges we face during graduate school, we need to remember
that as nutrition students, we are responsible for setting an
example to the world around us.