Eating Healthy as a College Student: How to Eat Whole Foods Without Going to Whole Foods

By Liz Friden

Dinner: DINNER finally having my first delicata squash of the season for dinner tonight 🤤 roasted it and served over a bed of spinach, topped with tahini and EBTB seasoning!! Served with some grilled chicken and roasted broccoli. Hope you all enjoyed your long weekend!!
Courtesy of Abby Fitzgerald

Abby Fitzgerald is a senior economics major at Catholic University who started a health & wellness themed Instagram in July 2018 called @fuelingabs. The page is an outlet for Fitzgerald to discuss her healthy recipes and lifestyle.

In her first post, Fitzgerald said, “Having a healthy relationship with food has not come easy for me, and can still be a struggle, but fueling my body with nutritious and wholesome yet SATISFYING foods has become a passion of mine.” The photo featured two scrambled eggs with spinach, tomato, and ghee. Ghee is a clarified butter with less lactose than real butter.

It is easy to be unhealthy in college and like most college students, as a freshman Fitzgerald struggled with maintaining a healthy diet. The summer after her sophomore year she started to eat vegetables and fruits and began to feel better. Through grocery shopping and cooking she has been able to take charge of her own health. Instead of eating processed foods in the Pryzbyla center, she learned to enjoy the process of cooking itself.

“I became really health conscious when I was able to buy my own food,” she said.

Through eating healthy she sees a physical difference in herself makes a mental difference for her. But, after that summer in the fall of her junior year, Fitzgerald went abroad. While in Europe, she was still making health conscious choices but she would have pizza and pasta in Italy and beer in Germany. Part of her experience was eating the foods and with all the traveling she was not able to cook as much as she would have liked. After arriving back in the U.S. for her spring semester, Fitzgerald wanted to take charge again of her own health. She got the idea for the Instagram through professional health pages she follows herself.

“I would always post on my snap chat story so I thought I might as well make an Instagram and post them all in there and meet other people that like to eat healthy and are into all the different wellness things.”

She gets her different recipe ideas from Instagram pages. Although her Instagram is not as put together as others, she enjoys doing it. What the pages do that she follows is they link their blog posts to their photos. So where Fitzgerald will write down the ingredients to what she makes, she does not go more in depth than that by having her own blog. But, she gets her ideas from these blogs which influence her grocery shopping.

She usually does her grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s which is located two metro stops away from Catholic U in NoMa. She likes their seasonal foods.

“One of the best things about Trader Joe’s is they do not weigh your vegetables, so if you want butternut squash they are two $2.00 each instead of paying $1.00 per pound. So you just pick the biggest one and get more bang for your buck.”

Although Fitzgerald is not vegan, she does enjoy a largely plant based diet. A lot of what she buys is fresh produce, but with a hectic and sometimes unpredictable schedule it is important she uses the food before it goes bad. Money is a huge factor too.

“The fruits and vegetables are a lot cheaper there (in Trader Joe’s) than they are even at Giant and especially Whole Foods, or Yes! Organic Market. If I am running low on food I go to Yes! Organic Market I will spend like $30.00 dollars in the middle of the week but if I go to Trader Joe’s for the whole week I will spend about $40 on groceries.”

Whole foods has a better selection for diary free options or more whole ingredients. Trader Joe’s has a lot of processed foods and foods with added sugar or diary. She spends more time looking at labels at Trader Joe’s, but being a college student she does not have it in her budget “to go and spend $5.99 on toast at Whole Foods.”

Fitzgerald goes to the farmers market on Monroe Street. The Monroe Street farmers market takes place every Saturday morning from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and has fresh produce from local farms in Maryland and Virginia. It is less than a five minute walk away from her off campus house. She usually gets spinach and different herbs. She finds they are cheaper and more fresh and organic. These are the staples that she uses often in her lunch and dinner recipes. She usually sticks to these staples when grocery shopping, but occasionally switches it up when she sees a recipe she likes on one of the professional Instagram pages she follows.

“If there is something I really want to make like there is a butternut squash mac and cheese that is mac and cheese with butternut squash and nutritional yeast and other ingredients, I went out and bought stuff for that to make that sauce because it was in season and I really wanted to make it, but that was a special occasion,” she explained. “I buy my staples, and if I see a new recipe then I alter it sometimes.”

Fitzgerald has a lot to balance with school, work, and extracurricular activities. To get through this while still satisfying her love of cooking, she meal preps.

“I meal prep on Sundays for lunches during the week. I’ll make a bunch of vegetables. I do buy frozen chicken that is already sliced up so I can do that on salads and they are already cooked so I just defrost them on top of a salad. So I bring my lunch onto campus a lot because I live off campus.”

For breakfast she usually makes oatmeal or avocado toast. She does not need to meal prep for that and enjoys starting her day with that in her morning routine.

“For dinner that is my relaxing time, so I do actually enjoy to cook so if I go home even if it is 8 p.m. I will still want to make dinner and not rush into it because it is kind of like my meditation before I will do homework all night.”

For a lot of students, meal prepping and cooking could be seen as unnecessary work. But, it makes her happy and helps her in other aspects of her life.

“I feel like when I am eating a low sugar diet or when I cut out certain foods I will be more apt to pay attention in class and put my best effort in.”

Her friends enjoy her Instagram, but they poke fun at it sometimes telling her to post a picture of their plates of sloppy un-Instagram worthy foods. Overall, they have been very supportive as they know how much she loves it.

One of her friends is vegan and they often cook dinner together, getting ideas from some of the same Instagram pages.

Fitzgerald is hesitant to put a label on her diet, because for her it is more of a lifestyle.

“We all have different diets and we all like different things. I hate the whole negativity of ‘if you are eating yogurt that is bad for you’, or ‘if you are eating chicken that is bad for the environment.’ Everyone is different and you do not need to put a label on stuff. Just whatever makes you feel good.”

For Fitzgerald, that is whole foods.

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