A healthy and cheap summer quinoa salad with roasted sweet potatoes and grilled chicken Taylor Nguyen/Daily Nexus

Documentaries terrify me. They have a cruel tendency to shatter any sort of ignorant bliss viewers may have. Naturally, I was rather apprehensive about watching “Fed Up,” a film promising to expose the dirty little secrets about the very thing I love most in this world: food. But “Fed Up” is like the best friend that will brutally tell you that your boyfriend is a downright scumbag when no one else dares to do so. It certainly isn’t what you want to hear, but what you need to hear. Simply put, we have been grossly misled about the way we are supposed to approach food and exercise. The government and the food industry have misconstrued our notions of what is truly beneficial for our bodies. That being said, after watching this documentary, I am fed up and hungry for change.

I now have a complicated relationship with processed foods. Anyone who knows me well is aware of my unadulterated affection for Reese’s and Flaming Hot Cheetos, so I will not pretend that I used to take what I put into my body too seriously. Like many others, I was disillusioned by the misconception that as long as I exercised, my consumption choices could be counteracted. But the unpleasant truth is that inside those convenient packages are more calories and sugar that our bodies could possibly ever try to work off. Even a 110-pound person will have to bike approximately an hour and fifteen minutes to burn off a 240-calorie soda. A one-ounce bag of Fritos has 160 calories. A one-ounce Rice Krispies treat contains 116 calories. A typical one-ounce bag of microwave popcorn packs 165 calories. Exercise is still a crucial element of health, but there are simply not enough waking hours to exercise off all of the food we consume throughout the day.

Before you decide to completely give up all together, it is important to understand that certain sugars and fats are healthier than others. The sugars in processed foods are much more difficult for the liver to handle, resulting in most of those sugars being converted and stored as fat. Even products that advertise as having “less sugar” and “reduced fat” end up adding in more sugar only disguised in different forms. With an estimated 93 million Americans affected by obesity in the United States, this epidemic should not be ignored. Yet, lower income families and college students are still inclined toward purchasing processed snacks and fast-food meals with the misconception that they are easier and cheaper. Trust me, I understand; everyone is busy and balancing a budget. But preparing a meal with fresh ingredients is not only healthier, but can even be less expensive. Breakups are not easy, but it is time to end things with processed foods.

Below is a recipe that proves that it doesn’t have to be costly to cook up a delicious, healthy meal. With plenty of fiber, vitamins and, yes, even two types of protein, you can serve four people with leftovers to spare for less than $3 per serving. No joke!

Note to reader: Prices were calculated by portions used in recipe over total cost of ingredient. As a tip, it is cheaper to buy ingredients in bulk and use for future meals!

Summer Quinoa Salad with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Grilled Chicken

For quinoa salad:

1 cup yellow quinoa ­­­‑ $1.83
2 cups water
One 5-ounce bag of mixed greens – $1.99
1 can of sweet corn – $0.89
¼ cup of diced red onion – $0.17
1 avocado, cut into cubes – $1.05
1 lemon – $0.50
4 sweet potatoes – $1.00
¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil $0.55
¼ cup of honey – $0.75
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
4 natural chicken tenders – $2.50


Pro-tip: Add a sunny-side-up egg on top – $0.20

1. Pre-heat oven to 375 F.

2. Chop sweet potatoes into 1-inch cubes and toss in a medium-sized bowl with the olive oil, honey, cinnamon and nutmeg. Once fully coated, pour onto baking sheet and bake until browned (about 40 minutes).

3. Place water and quinoa into a medium-sized saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat and cover the saucepan. Let cook until the quinoa absorbs all the liquid.

4. Toss the mixed greens with the corn, red onions, avocado, roasted sweet potatoes and quinoa. Squeeze all of the lemon juice over the salad, season with salt and pepper to taste.

5. In a frying pan, drizzle olive oil and wait until pan is very hot. Cook chicken for approximately 3 minutes on each side or until cooked thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper to taste and slice into bite-sized pieces. Add on top of salad. (Optional, but highly recommended: add a sunny-side-up egg on top.) Enjoy!