Fast food, Kraft dinner and Ramen have long been staples of the starving college student, but being tight on cash doesn’t mean having to eat poorly, say experts.

Kristen Reaves, a Vancouver-based registered dietitian, says it’s often cheaper and healthier to prepare foods at home. One tip she recommends is to buy in bulk.

“Buying in bulk will always save money, whether it’s eggs, yogurt or meat,” she said. “If you can buy a box of chicken breasts as opposed to a single one at the deli, (you) will save bundles.”

She also suggests looking in flyers and online for coupons.

“If you find something that is a staple in your diet and it is on sale, buy several of them at that time to save a little cash.”

Anthony Bevan, a chef, author and faculty member at Humber College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning, says ethnic food stores are great places to buy healthy foods at discount prices.

“I go to my local Chinese supermarket for fish,” he said. “The fish is cheaper and fresher, because of the turnover. They’re selling a large quantity.”

Ethnic food stores also often carry fruits and vegetables for prices below that of chain supermarkets.

The key to eating well, according to both Reaves and Bevan, is to eat a variety of foods, such as whole grain pastas, fruits, vegetables and proteins. Reaves says one’s plate should be one-quarter carbohydrates, one-quarter protein and half vegetables.

Lesley Chang, a 27-year-old first-year public relations student in Vancouver, is a self-proclaimed “starving college girl.” Still, she manages to maintain a fairly healthy diet — bagels, salads, vegetables, tuna, pastas — on only $45 every other week.

“I’ll buy of lots of pasta when it’s cheap, or make tuna casserole and freeze it so I can heat it up later,” she said.

Bevan also notes that not all fast foods are created equal.

“Pizza is not a bad food,” he cited as an example. “Pizza contains food from all the four food groups, as opposed to something like fish and chips, that’s all deep-fried and fat-laden.”

Healthy snack options include popcorn, vegetables with dip, an apple with a tablespoon of peanut butter and small sandwiches on whole-grain bread.

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