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Eating Healthily, Affordably, and Fast in Medical School

While preparing for your first year in medical school, what you’re going to eat during your first year as a med student is probably the last thing that’s on your mind. But it shouldn’t be! Eating well on a budget, and making time to eat while studying, is not only a great life skill but it will also keep your body healthy and give your mind the energy it needs to tackle academia. Below are some tips on how to achieve this easily, so that instead of figuring out how to feed yourself at 3 am, with nothing in the fridge, you can focus on that next pathology slide.

Food Ideas for Healthy Eating

With biweekly or weekly exams that require you to study like it’s final time, undergrad habits of overloading on junk food around finals may not be a long-term solution. Without the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables, you are more likely to get sick, which will make you miserable and cause you to fall behind on your med school material.

Quick Tips:

Plan on Snacks – If you know you’ll need something to munch on while studying, stock up on yogurt, fresh fruit, or bags of frozen fruit. If it’s a big test, you might even consider a party veggie tray.

Stick to Frozen – Frozen vegetables are usually cheaper than fresh vegetables, and you don’t need time to prepare them prior to cooking. Run hot water through them, before you cook, to reduce cooking time. Harder vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower will look and taste closer to fresh than leafy vegetables. Throw a handful of veggies into pasta, rice, and even omelets.

Go for Wheat – Buy whole wheat/added fiber varieties. If you seriously object to the taste of whole wheat, consider adding flaxseed to a cup of oatmeal in the morning; Not only will the omega-3 do wonders for your heart, but you won’t even taste the difference.

Eating Well on a Budget

While grabbing fast food or eating out seems like the easier, quicker option, you’ll thank yourself later when you realize how much money you’re saving (and even be able to pay off your student loans faster!). The four tenets of eating cheaply are: buy on sale, buy in season, buy in bulk, and freeze everything.

Quick Tips:

Make a Generic List – You don’t have to stick exactly to your grocery list. Rather, write down general categories of “fruit” or “vegetable”, and get whatever is on sale at the store.

Save with the Season – If you want strawberries in winter, you’re going to have to pay a premium. Buying in season vegetables and fruits can save a fortune.

Bulk Up – Buy everything that you can in bulk if and only if a) you can use it before it spoils or b) you’re sharing it with someone else. Get a Sam’s Club or Costco membership and buy things like oatmeal for a cheaper price per unit.

Freeze Produce – Freeze everything that you can. This helps save on your bulk purchases and also reduces waste. Avocado can be bought on sale, sliced, and frozen, and the same goes for bread and meat.

Purchasing Meat – Meat is often the most expensive part of a diet, so when it goes on sale, buy whatever you can fit into your freezer. To make cooking easier later, section your meat and put it into Ziploc bags so you won’t have to defrost a whole pork shoulder, for example, to make one night’s dinner later on.  For ground meats, repackage them into gallon-sized Ziploc bags, but pound them flat and use the blunt back of a knife to press grooves along the bag, allowing you to section the meat, making it easier to break off blocks later for a quick meal.

Getting Food Fast, Without Getting Fast Food

Sometimes all a medical student really wants is to just have hot food descend from the heavens with no effort involved. The closest you can get to this is frozen meals, along with the purchase of a Crockpot (seriously, you’ll want to invest in one!).

Frozen Meals are your Friend

Frozen meals make it quick and easy to grab an already prepared meal, and toss it in the Crockpot or microwave. You can make a month’s worth of frozen meals in advance and store them in Freezer Ziplock bags. Simply defrost your frozen meal the night before in your refrigerator, place it in a crockpot in the morning, leave the Crockpot on throughout the day, and come back to effortless deliciousness in the evening.  Keep in mind that vegetables should be added the day of instead of being frozen in the package. For example, you can marinate any type of meat (pork shoulder on sale is always a favorite) and add potatoes, whole mushrooms and baby carrots from your refrigerator once you’re ready to throw food in the Crockpot. No chopping involved. Cooked rice can be frozen, with little effect on texture or taste, and makes for a great side dish.

Don’t Forget About Breakfast

Besides dinner, fast breakfast ideas may also be good for the late risers among us. The choice between running late for the bus and being hungry in a four-hour lecture is a painful one. A great fast, filling, and healthy option is overnight oats. Combine yogurt, oats, and additives of your choice (honey, frozen fruit, brown sugar, etc.) in a mason jar and stir until combined (or put oats in first so that the liquid will migrate downwards). Then, leave it in the fridge overnight and warm it up in the microwave in the morning (or leave it as it is), and take it with you to eat during lecture at your leisure.

Stick to Healthy, Low-Cost, and Quick Eating Habits

By developing great eating habits in med school right of the bat, you’ll thank yourself later knowing that you feel great, you saved money and you even saved some time.

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