By Kaytlyn Poberznick
Jennifer Livingstone is the nutrition specialist for the Culinary Arts at NAIT, and she is passionate about helping students eat healthier while on a budget.
Many post-secondary students struggle to figure out healthy eating habits when first trying to grocery shop for themselves. Livingston suggests staying clear of convenience stores and taking a trip to your local grocery store instead.
“There’s more selection at a grocery store than there would be at a smaller store. When you’re looking at maintaining a more healthy diet, the best thing to do is to stick to more fresh foods rather than processed foods,” said Livingstone.
Sometimes the big box grocery stores can be intimidating for first-time solo shoppers. But luckily most grocery stores have similar layouts for easy and strategic shopping.
“Most grocery stores are set up so that you can get fresh fruits and vegetables, the bakery, your meat and dairy around the outside of stores.[…] If you can minimize the number of times, you go into the interior of the store, and even if you do go into that middle section, stick with more of the basic staple foods…That’s kind of the tip and trick of shopping for healthy foods,” said Livingstone.
The thought that healthy foods being expensive is one of the main reasons people don’t attempt to buy healthy. Livingstone believes it’s much easier than people realize.
“Let’s focus on meat, which is often something people talk about, ‘I can’t afford to buy meat’. Well, luckily, plant protein sources are really inexpensive. Think of canned chickpeas, beans, lentils. All of these things are really, really inexpensive. You can buy a bag of lentils, and it can last you a long time. The problem is that people don’t know how to use those things if it’s not part of your culture and if it’s not part of what you grew up eating, but there are lots of really good resources [to learn from like] Youtube, different websites,” said Livingstone.
“Don’t get stuck on this idea that it’s too expensive to eat healthily. I think that you’re worth it, and you just need to pick good foods, a good variety of food, and you’ll find that if you’re eating it, then it’s money well spent,” said Livingstone.
Livingstone believes the easiest way to stay motivated to remember to eat (and eat healthy) is to prep once you’ve returned from grocery shopping.
“The secret to having healthy snacks around is actually just a tiny bit of preparation. A student on a budget probably shops once, twice a week. You’re not done when you put your food away. What you do is, you come home, you wash it, you cut it, and you store it,” said Livingstone.
“When we want a snack, we want it now. We don’t want to have to go peal a carrot or wash some grapes. We want something quick. So if you take a little bit of time, it can be just as much as a half an hour. Once you get home after shopping and do a little bit of prep, you’ll find that you’ll gravitate to those healthier things rather than grab a bag of chips. If it is convenient and it’s ready, you’ll eat it,” said Livingstone.
Another big tip Livingstone has for first-time shoppers is to write a list before venturing out to the store. Having set things that need to be purchased makes the trip a lot less stressful.
“Think about Canada’s Food Guide. We should be doing half of our plate with fruits and vegetables, a quarter of protein-containing foods, that would be animal products as well as things such as beans, lentils, dairy, and then a quarter of whole grains,” said Livingstone.
“So if you are a new adult and you were starting to cook on your own, make a list. Pick a couple of different types of fruits, maybe three or four different types of vegetables that you like to eat, something that you know you’ll eat, and then the same thing with grain, same thing with your meat or alternatives,” said Livingstone.
Any step toward healthy eating is a positive mindset and realizing that everybody deserves the chance at a nutritious and balanced diet.