This month, college students usually start buckling down to study for midterms – and start letting their belts out a notch or two.
According to one study, most college students gain 10 pounds over the course of four years at a university. Packing on pounds during college is easy. According to USA Today, students often feel compelled to eat the unhealthy foods that are part of their pricey meal plans. Dining halls don’t always present healthy spreads of fresh fruits and vegetables. And buying fresh fruit and vegetables can cost a lot of money – something most students don’t have.
Another problem? Dorm rooms.
They’re small. A survey conducted by College Planning and Management magazine found that most dorm rooms are between 300 and 360 square feet per bed. Most don’t come equipped with mini-refrigerators — an extra expense many students and their parents might prefer to forgo.
Fortunately, canned foods can help students maintain a healthy diet and waistline even if they’re on a tight budget – and live in a tight space.
“Canned beans and canned re-fried beans are a great and delicious source of protein,” says dietician Rachel Paul, who provides healthy eating advice to college students on Instagram.
According to WebMD, adult men need around 56 grams of protein per day. Women need around 46 grams.
Protein is an essential part of every healthy diet because:
- It helps control hunger, especially during late-night study sessions.
- It helps build and maintain muscle.
- It contributes to bone health.
- It can boost your metabolism so you burn more calories.
Beans are also jam-packed with fiber, which helps maintain bowel health, blood sugar levels and a healthy weight.
Paul’s favorite canned-bean salad recipe is simple enough for a college student who’s failing chemistry to prepare. “Mix one can of garbanzo beans, one can of kidney beans, lemon juice from one lemon, and a dash of pepper,” she says. “It’s great with chips too.”
“Canned tuna or salmon is also an excellent filling protein option,” Paul says.
Canned fish may even give college students the boost they need to turn a B+ into an A-. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says that improved memory is just one of the many brain-boosting benefits of eating at least 8 ounces of fish per week.
Canned fish is just as good for you as fresh fish – and in some cases even better. The U.S. Department of Agriculture found that fresh and canned fish have comparable amounts of omega-3 fatty acids overall, and that canned pink and red salmon contain more omega-3s than their fresh counterparts.
Good for the human body, but what about Mother Earth? Eco-conscious undergrads don’t need to worry about the environmental impact of canned fish. More grocers are stocking their shelves with sustainably caught tuna, with most available through Amazon Fresh, so even college students who live far from a grocery store can stock their shelves with sustainable fish.
To help the environment even more, students can recycle cans.
To make a meal with canned tuna, Paul suggests topping one serving of whole-grain crackers with one can of tuna and Parmesan cheese and microwaving everything for up to 30 seconds.
“Canned tomato or vegetable soup can also be an excellent option for late-night studying, as it’s tasty, hot and comforting,” Paul says. “Typically, these soups don’t have too many calories.”
According to Men’s Fitness, Amy’s Organic Light In Sodium Lentil Vegetable soup is one of the healthiest options on the market. It contains 80 calories, 290 mg sodium, 6 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein per serving.
It’s not a bad idea to eat some soup in the dorm room before heading to the dining hall. A study in the journal Appetite found that participants who ate soup before their main meal consumed up to 20 percent fewer calories overall.
Some soups, like Campbell’s minestrone, contain tons of vegetables, including carrots, potatoes, kidney beans, celery, green beans and peas.
Many canned foods require draining, so Paul suggests investing in a can-specific strainer to save shelf space. And though many canned foods now come with convenient pull-tabs, a sturdy manual can opener is always good to have on hand.
With enough canned goods at the ready, college students can score straight-A’s when it comes to maintaining a healthy diet.