Student life could be taking a toll on your health.

It’s no surprise, given the many years of bleary-eyed, sleepless nights spent poring over textbooks and typing up last-minute assignments, a cup of stale coffee at your elbow and a half-eaten pot of Kraft dinner on the stove.

One of the major culprits is packaged and processed foods.

“Students eating on the run are going to go with what’s cost-effective and, typically, that’s fast food: Bagels, burgers, French fries, chips and pop,” said Judy Chambers, a registered nutritionist and certified personal trainer based in Vancouver.

“It’s quick and easy, but the price you’re going to pay down the road is huge.”

According to Chambers, naturally occurring fats and carbs can actually be good for you. She recommends good-quality carbs, such as dark leafy greens, and good quality fats, such as butter or coconut oil.

“You’re really missing the boat when you just focus on trans fat,” she said. “The real danger is polyunsaturated fat from the vegetable oil found in packaged foods,” she says. “The process of high heats and chemical solvents causes free radicals to be released, which attack healthy tissues. This is especially dangerous for students because (their) hormones are changing. (They are) at an active time in (their) life.”

Snacking on processed foods not only takes its toll on your health, but your wallet too. Instead of that quick bowl of cereal or coffee and a muffin, go for a hot breakfast of porridge. A large bulk bag of oatmeal only costs about $2.50 and can last for weeks. If you’re worried about the morning rush to class, soaking the oatmeal overnight cuts the cooking time in half.

“If you start the day with cereal, you’re going to be hungry in less than half an hour because it’s just flour and simple sugar,” said Chambers, who recommends sitting down for at least one good meal a day.

By focusing on staples such as oatmeal and brown rice, Chambers says students can easily cut their grocery bills in half.

Another tip: Instead of instant noodles, make a large pot of hearty vegetable soup or stew that will last you for the week.

Chambers teaches healthy eating workshops and cooking classes. To register, visit

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