We received this question from a reader:

Can you recommend a diet for college students with a low budget?

Here's the Answer

While you didn't describe the type of diet you're interested in, I'm going to assume you're not talking about a weight-loss diet, but one that's geared towards eating healthy and putting on muscle.

Eating pricey organic is obviously out, and fast food restaurants (occasionally) and discount warehouse stores are in. Here's your grocery list:

  • White rice (5-pound bags)
  • Oatmeal
  • Canned tuna (Live Planet brand, in cellophaned stacks from CostCo, if possible)
  • Canned chicken
  • Mayonnaise (made with olive oil)
  • Dave's Killer Bread
  • Cottage cheese
  • Dehydrated fruits
  • Natural peanut butter
  • Eggs
  • Olive oil
  • Milk. Lots and lots of milk.

While this diet isn't perfect, you're college-aged, which should mean you're pretty much indestructible and can survive a less-than-optimal diet for months, if not years. Still, a diet consisting of the foods listed above covers most of your fatty acid and nutrient needs and is probably healthier than 99% of what your situational compatriots are eating.

Buy yourself a small rice cooker. Use it to make tubs of rice that you can store in your meager refrigerator. (Cooking it beforehand and then sticking it in the fridge makes the starch more resistant.) Mix the canned tuna or chicken in it, along with some olive oil, to make a fairly palatable meal.

Likewise, use that same canned chicken, along with tuna, peanut butter, or hard-boiled eggs (with a spreading of the olive oil mayo) to make a variety of sandwiches with Dave's Killer Bread, which is a nutritional phenom all by its lonesome.

Milk, however, can be your insurance policy. It's pretty cheap and each glass has about 8 grams of protein. While I'm not one of those GOMAD (gallon of milk a day) guys, I think plain milk is a fair substitute for a lot of conventional, run-of-the-mill, made in China by convicts, protein powders.

The protein in it is 80% casein and 20% whey, which is pretty close to perfect for bodybuilding purposes. An 8-ounce glass has about 8 grams of protein, so 4 glasses will give you an additional 32 grams of protein a day. Drink at least 4 glasses of whole or 2% milk every day. It's cheap, so you can drink another glass or two if you see that you're not going to hit your protein quota for the day.

The only thing that's missing from this "diet" is some vegetables, but vegetables are easy to get. Just make it a rule that whenever you eat at a fast-food restaurant, you have to order the crummy, obligatory salad they offer on the menu. Consider it the penance you have to pay before eating your bacon cheeseburger.

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