Cooking can be a challenge for many students who just moved off-campus, but eating healthy is a whole new ballpark. 

On top of it being the first time many students are in charge of their cooking, they are also in charge of diets and making sure they are eating nutritiously. 

MSU instructor and registered dietician Christine Henries-Zerbe said one of the most important things students can do in order to eat nutritiously is to budget out their food and plan their meals every week. 

Related: Off-campus students try their hand at cooking

Buying fresh is not always the best route to go, Henries-Zerbe said. There are cheaper alternatives to buying fresh meat and produce. She suggests buying frozen vegetables, and she thinks legumes are a good source of protein. 

“(Fresh) is more perishable, it goes bad faster,” Henries-Zerbe said. “If they don’t have time to cook, they may lose it and end up having to dispose of it.”

She emphasized that while frozen vegetables are healthy, packaged meals are not. Taking time to make the food from scratch is important for nutritional benefit. 


MSU academic specialist and registered dietician Deanne Kelleher warns students against engaging in counting calories — a way of figuring out how many calories someone burns versus how much they eat.

“Counting calories puts us into diet culture, and diet culture can lead us into a lifelong yo-yo of weight,” Kelleher said. “Diet culture says that we have to be a certain weight, we have to eat a certain way and counting calories is part of that. I think it’s important that we understand our hunger and our fullness, and we also understand that all foods do fit in and that eating is more than just calories.”

Kelleher also recommends students stay away from “fad diets” like the ketogenic diet because students should not be removing a whole food group from their consumption. This is unsustainable for long periods of time, Kelleher said. 

“You’ve taken out a bunch of nutrients, fibers and other micronutrients that your body needs for your brain so you can have good test scores, everything like that,” Kelleher said. “When we take out some groups, we’re taking out a lot of nutrition and that’s a strong concern with the ketogenic diet.”

Vegetarian and vegan diets are great ways to incorporate more plants into a student’s diet, Kelleher said. 

Comparative culture and politics senior Sara Siddiqui went vegan in June 2020 because she wanted to see if she could do it and to reduce her carbon footprint.

If a student wanted to experiment with veganism, Siddiqui said they would need to understand how to still get all the nutrients they need while cutting out all animal products. 

“I think it’s really important when you start out to make sure that you understand nutrition at least a little bit,” Siddiqui said. “Because it is very easy for vegans to end up being deficient in a bunch of nutrients that you need.”

Some of the foods Siddiqui has made are chickpea pasta, Vietnamese summer rolls and cauliflower gnocchi. She makes a lot of pasta because she finds that it is simple, easy and affordable.

“Nobody wants to come home after a long day and be in the kitchen for three hours,” Siddiqui said. “So finding things that are simple and easy to make, as well as not hard to access because a lot of the time, being vegan is not a choice for a lot of people, it’s a privilege. Finding ways to do it that’s affordable and also something you can continuously make is really important for me.”

Regardless of which diet you pursue it’s important to make sure you’re eating nutritious, well-balanced meals. MSU offers the help of a dietitian to ensure you can meet your dietary needs. The app “MSUtrition” let’s you plan and track meals and the university also has a six week nutrition and physical activity program for adults called “Eat Healthy, Be Active.”

This story is a part of our Fall Housing Guide. View the full issue here.

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