By Jacqueline Kelly–

There’s no doubt eating healthy in college can be difficult. With hectic schedules, tight budgets and tempting fast food restaurants, plans to eat healthy can sometimes fall to the wayside. Whether you’re striving to take better care of yourself in general or just want to avoid the freshman 15, here are a few tips for making better decisions when it comes to food.

Know your budget and lifestyle.

This is an important, but underestimated tip. Not working with what you have can throw you off eating healthily or keep you from starting all together.

Forcing yourself to eat things you don’t like for the sake of a nutritious diet makes healthy eating too much of a chore. Likewise, getting caught up in buying items outside your budget is frustrating and creates the mindset that making better choices is too difficult.

Instead, focus on what you like, your budget and your lifestyle. If you hate salads, find a better way to work greens and other veggies into your diet.

Stock your pantry with nutritious staples.

Whether you’re a freshman in a dorm or an upperclassman in an apartment, pantry essentials are your best friend. That doesn’t mean stocking up on preservative-filled snacks, though. Instead, opt for things like brown or jasmine rice, nuts, beans, oats and whole grain pastas. These often serve as a key ingredient for meals. Plus, wholesome dried goods are normally cheap, so there’s no excuse to not stock up.

Save money with frozen produce.

It’s a no brainer produce is an essential part of a nutritional diet. Luckily, there’s a lot to choose from and ways to shave off a few dollars. If you can’t, or aren’t willing to pay for overpriced produce, check the frozen foods isle for cheaper versions of your favorites — especially vegetables. Just be sure to check the ingredients list for any additives.

Even if you don’t buy from the frozen aisle, there are still ways to be budget conscious. Bananas are one of the cheapest fruits, making them easy to stock up.

Prepare your meals in advance.

You know those times when you’re on campus with nothing to eat so you go for what’s closest? Meal prepping is a nice remedy. Set aside a certain day and prepare meals for the week. If you’re in a suite-style dorm, take advantage of the community kitchens for meal prepping. For those living in traditional dorms, prepping will look a bit different, as it’ll revolve around simple snack-meals.

When it’s time to head out, just pack up your meals and snacks and you’re good to go. Say goodbye to desperate Chick-fil-a purchases.

Save your leftovers.

Don’t like meal prepping? That’s fine, too. A nice way to get around that is with a not-so-traditional version of food prep. Instead of going out of your way to prepare food, just make bigger portions whenever you do cook. You’ll have leftovers to pack for school or work.

Be prepared for cravings.

Along with not being prepared, craving junk food can be a major setback for anyone trying to establish or maintain good eating habits. Don’t be so quick to run to McDonald’s, though. Finding ways to modify your favorite meals is a great way to satisfy junk food cravings while adding nutritional value.