Healthy eating benefits your health and budget. It can avoid or control diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity. These diseases can cost you a lot in drugs, operations, and hospital stays. Eating foods with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber can prevent diseases and reduce healthcare expenses.

It was a typical warm and sunny September day in the Bay. Annie and LJ walked hand in hand as they passed through Sather Gate, the iconic entrance to UC Berkeley, Annie’s alma mater. They continued to Sproul Plaza, the heart of student life, where they saw various groups of students protesting, performing, or promoting their causes. Annie smiled as she remembered participating in some rallies and events during her college days.

They were headed to Wheeler Hall, the largest lecture hall on campus, where they were scheduled to give their talk on eating healthy on a student shoestring budget.  Wheeler Hall was a majestic building with a classical facade and a large dome. It was built in 1917 and has hosted many famous speakers and events over the years.

They entered the building and were greeted by a friendly staff member who led them through the spacious auditorium and onto a stage with a podium and a screen. The room was already filled with eager students.

Annie adjusted her microphone, “Hi, everyone. We are so happy to be here and share our experience with you. It feels like just a few years ago when I was a Cal student living on a shoestring budget. I didn’t realize how important eating healthy was to my well-being until I woke up one morning barely able to get out of bed. I managed to get to Cowell Hospital here on campus and was diagnosed as severely anemic and malnourished. I had to figure out how to eat well quickly with limited time and money. That experience fostered my interest in healthy eating. That is an activity LJ and I have always shared, so today, we will discuss what we’ve learned to stay nourished and healthy.”

LJ nodded and flipped on the first slide. “Annie is determined that her college experience around her health does not become common for you college students. In fact, we have been eating healthily for a long time, and we can tell you that it has made a huge difference in our lives. We feel great, have more energy, sleep better, have few health problems, and enjoy our food more.”

Annie pointed at the first slide. “So how do we do it? Well, the first thing is to know what foods are good for you and what foods are not. Your body needs six essential nutrients: carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and water. You must get these nutrients from your diet because your body cannot make them independently.”

Carbohydrates are the main energy source for your body,” said LJ as he flipped to the next slide. “They include sugars, starches, and fibers. You want to choose complex carbohydrates that are high in fiber and low in added sugars, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds. These foods will keep you full longer, lower your blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and prevent constipation.”


“Next is Protein, the building block of your body. It helps you grow and repair your muscles, bones, skin, hair, nails, and organs. You want to choose lean protein sources that are low in saturated fat and cholesterol, such as poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, soy products, and beans. These foods will also provide you with iron, zinc, and B vitamins.

Fat is also important for your body. It helps you absorb vitamins, protect your organs, and regulate your hormones. But not all fats are created equal. You want to choose healthy fats that are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, and fish.”


“This slide features vitamins and minerals and their essential role in your body’s functions,” said Annie. “They help you fight infections, heal wounds, make hormones, and maintain your nerves, muscles, and bones. You can get most of the necessary vitamins and minerals from eating various fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and dairy. These foods also provide antioxidants and phytochemicals that protect you from oxidative stress and chronic diseases. Some vitamins and minerals you may need to supplement are vitamin D for bone health, vitamin B12 for nerve function, iron needed for blood production, and calcium also for bone health.”


LJ held up his personal water bottle. “Water is the most important nutrient for your body. It makes up about 60% of your body weight and is involved in every process in your body. It helps you regulate your temperature, transport nutrients, and oxygen to your cells, remove waste products from your body, lubricate your joints and eyes, and cushion your organs. You need to drink enough water every day to stay hydrated and healthy. The amount of water you need depends on your age, weight, activity level, climate, and health status. But a general rule of thumb is to drink at least eight glasses of water daily. You can also get water from eating fruits and vegetables with high water content, such as watermelon, cucumber, tomato, and lettuce.”

Annie smiled at LJ and looked at the audience. “So now that you know what foods are good for you, how do you eat them on a budget? Well, there are many ways to save money on healthy foods. Here are some of our tips and tricks:

  • Plan your meals ahead of time and make a shopping list. This will help you avoid impulse buying and wasting food.
  • Compare prices and look for sales and discounts at different stores and online.
  • You can also use coupons and loyalty cards to save more money.
  • Buy in bulk and store or freeze the extra food. This will save you time and money in the long run.
  • Buy seasonal and local produce when possible. They are usually cheaper and fresher than imported or out-of-season produce.
  • Buy frozen or canned fruits and vegetables when fresh ones are not available or too expensive. They are just as nutritious as fresh ones if they do not have added sugar or salt.
  • Buy generic or store brands instead of name brands. They are usually cheaper and have the same quality and ingredients1.
  • Cook at home instead of eating out or ordering takeout. You can control what goes into your food and how much you eat. You can also make large batches of food and freeze the leftovers for later.
  • Use cheaper cuts of meat or alternative protein sources, such as beans, lentils, tofu, eggs, and dairy products. They are high in protein and fiber but low in fat and cost.
  • Use herbs, spices, lemon juice, or vinegar instead of salt to flavor your food. They will add taste and health benefits to your food without increasing your sodium intake.
  • Drink water or unsweetened tea or coffee instead of sugary drinks, such as soda, juice, or energy drinks. They will hydrate you and save you calories and money.

“This last slide summarizes how to eat healthy on a budget,” stated LJ. “We hope you find them useful and try them out. Remember, eating healthily is not only good for your body but also for your wallet. You can enjoy delicious and nutritious foods without spending a lot of money. And you will feel the difference in your health and well-being.”

“Thanks for spending this time with LJ and me. We hope you learned something new and got inspired to eat healthy on a budget. If you have any questions or comments, please share them on one of our social media platforms. We would love to hear from you.”


Annie and LJ are a fictional couple. Their storyline promotes healthy eating and earth-friendly practices.

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