American Society For Nutrition

Eating Healthy in Graduate School

Eating Healthy in Graduate School

Excellence in Nutrition Research and Practice
Posted on 08/11/2009 at 05:29:12 PM by Student Blogger

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.

3 Comments
Posted Aug 11, 2009 8:40 PM by Emily
I think your last statement captured the heart of your post...

It is true that healthy eating is quite a bit more expensive. I just finished a three week candida yeast cleanse which required lots of organic meats and vegetables and plenty of time in the kitchen to cook it all. Processed and prepared or frozen foods are often cheaper and faster to make but there is no comparison in the diminished health and lack of nutrients provided by those kinds of "dead" and over-processed foods.

When a bottle of water is more expensive than a bottle of Coke you know there is a problem with our system. All in all the benefits of healthy eating are definitely worth it and there are ways to eat healthy and stay on a budget if you work at it.


While reading your blog I was taken back to my childhood days where being economically disadvantaged was the norm in my neighborhood.But as I matured and learn more I've found that we as Americans eat too much as it is. We Americans are desperately overweight as I was until I found the reason for my being overweight, I had an overgrowth of yeast- a yeast infection and had to find a yeast cure. When I found the yeast cure I found that I lost weight and the craving for a lot of food it was all unintentional. Eating healthy-whole foods is not very hard I just don't eat as much and find that I'm a slimmer and healthier person.