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The international student guide to eating healthy and saving money in the U.S.

Studying abroad is the best opportunity to immerse yourself in a new culture and engage in a very different life from the one you have at home. You will experience new people, new schools, new way of learning, new customs, new places and, of course, new foods.

Eating habits vary in different regions and each country has its own typical foods. If you are planning to study in the United States, you probably know that its famous for its burgers, french fries, milkshakes and junk food. But that doesn't mean that there aren't any healthy alternatives. Supermarkets, restaurants and even fast food places are becoming healthier and shifting towards a more nutritious approach.

Eating healthy without spending a lot of money is a common worry among international students that choose the U.S. as their study abroad destination. Don’t worry though, we have a few tips that can help you!

1.      Find Where to Shop

Shopping for food in the States is an attraction itself. There are endless options and new products that combine your favorite food brands, which make it easy to get lost and buy more junk food than you can possibly handle. Spending more money than you should is also a common problem. 

The first step for smart shopping is: avoid small convenience stores! They are overpriced and usually don’t offer the healthy and nutritious food that you need. Leave those places for emergencies only.

Second step is: compare prices, variety and quality between supermarkets. Trader Joe’s is located in most U.S cities like Boston, Los Angeles, Houston and Chicago, and has a combination of organic food with considerably lower prices than other big and famous healthy food brands

If you want to dedicate time to your food shopping, a good idea to save money is to shop in multiple locations. Farmer’s Markets are usually the best options for fresh fruits and vegetables. Ask locals for tips. Remember that walking to the shopping location will make you burn some extra calories on the way while saving transportation money!

2.      Read the Packages

It is very important to know what you are eating. North America is known for using lots of artificial ingredients on their food which can make them less healthy and even more fattening. Remember to always check the nutritional information like percentage/grams of fat, proteins and carbs. According to the Institute of Medicine, for example, a balanced diet includes 7 to 12 grams of fat per meal, considering 3 meals a day.

The popular saying “If you can’t pronounce it, you can’t eat it” is a good “law” to go by while checking ingredients. Organic and non processed options with less chemicals are always healthier.

3.      Prepare Meals for the Week

Once you have figured out where to shop, the next step is: plan your shopping

Each person has their own needs and meal times, so keep in mind that what works for a friend might not work for you. Regardless, establishing a routine for making a big purchase will certainly make your life easier and help you save money while studying abroad. 


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You can use a simple food pyramid to estimate the quantities you need. Shop, for example, every Sunday (or once every two Sundays), and on the same day, prepare most of your meals for the week. This strategy helps you save money since you can buy bigger (family size) packages that offer better deals and freeze food for later. 

For lunch you could, for example, buy a big pack of protein, a healthy carbohydrate, like sweet potatoes or brown rice and vegetables. Cook everything and store small portions in your fridge on a daily basis. Benefits of preparing healthy meals ahead include knowing exactly what you are eating and saving money (and calories!), by not eating out everyday.



Lastly, remember that everything in life is about balance, it might take a while but you will definitely find yours. Allow yourself to try delicious foods and have drinks with friends. A good idea is to weigh yourself every week to make sure you know where you are at. Look for walking trails around your home to go on a walk and exercise once in a while. 

We know food is a big part of a new culture, but you CAN enjoy your graduate school experience with consciousness and no guilt! 

We know that there are many challenges when studying abroad but it is also one of the most rewarding experiences you can get. Get started on your journey today by finding a coach that will help you all the way through the process. GradTrain is here to help with everything you might need.

If you want to get more information, comment, or just tell us a nice story, please contact us at: info@gradtrain.com. 




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