5 reasons why college students make unhealthy food choices


In the world of endless studying and nonstop exams, students can forget to eat healthy. Instead, they tend to choose unhealthy alternatives that are more convenient.  But are unhealthy food choices worth regretting that day’s choices? Or, worse, regretting a month’s choices, after gaining a few extra pounds? Here are some of the reasons why it’s a challenge for students to stay healthy:

1. Fast food is cheaper


There’s a myth that healthy food is expensive. It sure is when you go to the most expensive shops. But, it has been repeatedly proven that whole foods are much more cheaper than fast foods. When considering portion size, the ranking from least to most expensive is: grains, dairy, vegetables, fruit, and, tied for most expensive: protein sources and less healthy foods. Note, of course, there are lower cost protein sources such as eggs, dairy, soy and grains , the ranking refers to meat sources.

2. Binge drinking


The thought of being away from home and having the freedom to do whatever you want without being controlled leads to countless nights of too much partying and drinking. Binge drinking can be a problem at any age, and there is enormous temptation to engage in this behaviour while at college. Moreover, peer pressure plays a major role in this case. “Because so and so can drink five glasses of beer, so can I.”

However, as this can be fun, note, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to a variety of health problems, ranging from the mild to the more serious. In the short term, heavy drinking can cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fatigue, feelings of depression, dehydration, and in severe cases, alcohol poisoning, which can be life-threatening.

3. No time to cook


Time seems to be always the issue when talking about student eating practices. It’s only normal that most students prefer to spend time on other activities than cooking. The faster the meal is ready the better. This gives the student extra time to sit in front of the television with a bag of crisps. Over time, that convenience becomes a habit and eventually a perceived necessity to keep up with such a fast-paced society.

Note, cooking is not difficult, and besides a home cooked meal is cheaper than a meal bought in a restaurant. Here’s a list of 15minute ready and healthy meals one can make.

4. Lack of knowledge


What many students lack is the understanding about food nutrition or no knowledge of what is considered healthy or unhealthy. Eating a diet with proper food nutrition is a difficult balancing act for most people especially college students. By taking the time to properly educate yourself on food nutrition, you’ll be able to choose a diet that is right for your health.

Note, Learning about healthy eating is a life lesson that not only helps each student, but the ripple effect has a positive impact on their families and generations to come.


5. Less healthy options in the Cafeteria


The controversy over cafeteria food is whether or not it is healthy for college students. Sometimes options with better nutrition are offered, but they tend to be less appealing than the unhealthy foods. Further, cafeteria food is cheaper than food from supermarkets, resulting to students eating more junk food at campus.

Healthy food tends to be the last option when deciding where the limited amounts of money should go. Unfortunately, when schools do have healthy ingredients, the food is usually prepared in a method that is unhealthy, because it is cheaper to cook it in that way.

Three students share why it’s difficult to stay healthy all the time

Melina (21), Tourism student

‘I’m more of a lazy person and I hate to spend too much time cooking. Hence, I tend to grab whatever is at my hands reach, as long as I do not have to prepare it.’

Unhealthy habit: ‘I skip meals. My mother cooks healthy but I prefer to eat fast food, chocolate, you name it.’

Jasna (20), Tourism student

‘Eating healthy in my case is not difficult because my mum cooks a lot of vegetables. But the challenge only comes when I’m home alone and have to make my own food. So I tend to prepare anything that won’t take much of my time. At school it’s also difficult to stick to my healthy routine, for starters, there are a lot of machines, with cookies and chocolate and no fruits, it’s always tempting. Further, during lunch, it’s boring to be the only one eating a salad yet your friend is eating something yummy. I however try to drink a lot of water.’

Unhealthy habit: ‘I eat a lot of pasta, I try to add vegetables but it’s not always the case.’

Ine (18), Accountancy student

‘The smell of food is what draws me to eating unhealthy most of the time. Whenever i enter the school cafeteria, the smell of spaghetti, coffee cakes and a lot more is overwhelming. There’s no way I will choose a salad at that moment.’

Unhealthy habit: ‘I tend to buy coffee cakes, even when I don’t need them.’




Tekst: Siphephisile Nyoni, photos: Siphephisile Nyoni, ©