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Healthy Eating on a Budget / By Cindy Chan


Instant ramen is a common go-to meal for many college students and anyone who is on a tight budget. It is cheap, accessible, and savory. Although instant ramen is a popular meal among many college students, overconsumption of instant ramen is tied to cardiometabolic risk factors. There are other budget friendly, healthier alternatives and programs that offer accessibility to fresh, high-quality produce.

A 2017 study conducted in Seoul, Korea found a positive correlation between the increased consumption of ramen and an increased risk of obesity and cardiometabolic health conditions. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “the prevalence of obesity was 39.8% and [has] affected about 93.8 million of US adults in 2015~2016.” With 93.8 million US adults affected by obesity, this means that they are more likely to develop heart disease, type II diabetes, and cancer. This results in a need for medical attention and costly treatments. According to the American Diabetes Association, patients diagnosed with diabetes incur medical expenses up to $16,752 and $9,601 of that is attributed to diabetes. These numbers are shocking. It is important for students to understand how something low-cost can lead to long-term expensive outcomes, especially when there are other affordable food sources.

Many healthier and low-cost options are available right in Chicago. At Harold Washington College, there is a weekly farmer’s market available, but students need to pay attention and seek these out. “I spend about $10 a day on food when I have class, which is Monday to Friday. I never noticed or paid much attention to the resources [Harold Washington] offered,” says Jia Lin, a student at Harold Washington College. The city of Chicago also has ongoing city sponsored farmer’s markets throughout various neighborhoods in the metropolitan area when they are in season.

Farmer’s markets provide a great alternative for those that shop there. “I want to make sure that what my children eat will help maintain overall good health, and it certainly will not include junk and fast food,” says Li, a mother of three, two currently in college, who shops at her nearby city sponsored market. “It is good for young adults to know about and take advantage of these things because there is already an issue with obesity in America.”

Overall, instant ramen may be cheap and savory, but because of its correlation to obesity it should be consumed once in a while, not frequently. Keep in mind, it is not the only option available. It may be cheap today, but those future medical bills may not be!


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