5 must-have healthy foods for a college student's grocery list

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Whether you’re on your own for the first time or an old pro at dorm life, it can be challenging to eat well on a budget and in a hurry when you are going to university.

There are many healthy foods, though, that are ideal for keeping on hand that can turn into satisfying study session snacks or meals that will help you power through your lectures and get those papers written. As a bonus, you can save your spending cash and skip the fast food lines, and keep that dreaded “Freshman 15” at bay if you make it a point to have healthier options at the ready.

Registered Holistic Nutritionist Keyrsten McEwan of Vancouver’s Integrative Naturopathic Medical Centre knows it can be tough to tackle healthy eating and term papers, but it’s not impossible.

“Staying on track can be difficult when you have a million things going on,” acknowledges McEwan, who adds that “getting and staying organized is half the battle.”

McEwan suggests having some easy pantry staples in stock, which will help you “round out your meals and prevent defaulting to grab and go options.”

Unsweetened nut butter with banana slices on a whole grain cracker makes for a great snack (Keyrsten McEwan)

Unsweetened nut butter with banana slices on a whole grain cracker makes for a great snack (Keyrsten McEwan)

Top 5 Pantry Staples for Students

1. BPA-free canned beans – chickpeas, lentils, black beans, kidney beans, etc.
Throw onto a salad for some protein or sauté with onion, spinach, bell peppers and spices for an ultra-fast side dish. Tip: Try to find Eden Organics brand canned beans; they use seaweed to preserve rather than salt and other additives.

2. Millet
Forget quinoa and try this other gluten-free grain for half the price. Cook it like you would quinoa and use as a base for salads and soups or instead of oats for a morning breakfast porridge.

3. Good Quality Protein Powder
Awesome for quick on the go breakfasts or a protein boost. Use in smoothies to make them more filling or add a scoop to oatmeal. Tip: Look for a protein powder with few ingredients without added sugars. I love Manitoba Harvest’s hemp protein line or Omega’s pumpkin seed for their minimal processing and cheaper price tag.

4. Unsweetened Nut Butters
Peanut butter, sunflower seed butter and tahini are all relatively inexpensive and are super filling. A go-to snack I recommend often (especially great after a workout) is whole grain crackers with unsweetened peanut butter and sliced banana or fresh blueberries.

5. Coconut Oil
This should be the cooking fat of choice for just about everyone. Use for everything from roasting veggies and stir fries to smoothies to baking. In fact, if you purchase one thing from this list, make coconut oil number one! Tip: Look for an unrefined, cold-pressed variety, available at most grocery stores.

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Lindsay William-Ross Lindsay is a Senior Editor at Vancity Buzz, and currently runs the site's Food section. A fourth generation Vancouverite, she spent the last two decades in Los Angeles, where she was EIC of the city's top blog, earned her MA, attended culinary school, and was an English professor (among other things). Lindsay's first published piece was December 1980 in The Province; it was her letter to Santa. E-mail: lindsay@vancitybuzz.com
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