There’s no denying that healthy eating as a student can be tough. You have limited money, limited cupboard/fridge space, a shared kitchen – and you might not have the most comprehensive cookery skills just yet. But, as I mentioned in a previous post, eating healthily is one of the most important things you can do to nurture your mental and physical health.
So, I’ve put together some top tips to help inspire and guide you towards healthier habits.
Chefs, dieticians and farmers will all tell you the importance of eating seasonally. When you buy what’s in season, you buy fresh food that’s abundant, at the peak of its supply – it costs less to farmers and distributors to harvest and ship, so works out cheaper for you. But maybe more importantly, by eating seasonally you get the best tasting, healthiest food available. The food is grown closer to home and is harvested and sold at the peak of its season, ideally meaning that you’re getting fruit and veg that hasn’t had time to lose its flavour and nutrients, or completely spoil, through preservation, distribution and a lengthy shelf life.
Eating seasonally also gives you a wider variety of produce to experiment with and encourages you to try new things, instead of eating the same few favourites over and over.
Join forces with your housemates
It can be hard enough to cook for one, let alone to cook healthily. Why not have a joint food kitty with your housemates and once or twice a week use it to make a healthy dinner for everyone. Take it in turns to cook and set a rule that it has to be something different. You’ll hopefully get to enjoy a variety of recipes and get the benefit of a good meal that wouldn’t be cost effective or practical to make for one.
OK, so you’re probably fed up with reading, but if you fancy something non-coursework related, sit down with some cookbooks. It might sound strange, but it’s a great way to increase your base knowledge. You can learn new techniques, figure out what ingredients are in season and get a greater understanding of textures, methods and flavour combinations. And familiarising yourself with a variety of cuisines and styles will hopefully inspire you to experiment more in the kitchen.
There are lots of budget friendly resources out there too – chefs like Jamie Oliver are working hard to help people create great tasting food with a limited number of ingredients and Mob Kitchen was established for students with the concept of ‘feed 4 a tenner’ – they have some amazing tried and tested ideas, which I still use myself!
The BBC Good Food website is also fab – if you love chicken for example, but you’re stuck for ideas for something new to do with it, just search ‘chicken’ and be presented with hundreds of different ways to get creative with your go-to ingredient.
It takes time and it’s not the most exciting task, but meal planning is a must for healthy eating. It allows you to think mindfully about your food choices, ensure you have variety and balance, and identify opportunities for healthy swaps.
It can also help with willpower and unhealthy impulse buys – if you’ve had a long day, you’re less likely to say ‘screw it’ and order in a massive pizza when you already have a good meal planned.
And the added bonus is that meal planning is much more budget friendly.
Make healthy swaps
You don’t have to swap out your entire diet for green smoothies to eat healthily. Making small swaps can make a big difference. Try brown pasta, rice and bread instead of white. Choose better quality peanut butter, that uses higher nut content and doesn’t have the added sugar, or diabetic jam. Try making kale chips or spiced roast chickpeas, a great alternative to crisps and nuts. Or porridge and overnight oats instead of standard cereal that can be high in added sugar. You can even buy lower added salt and sugar ketchup, beans and spaghetti hoops for when you need your comfort food.
If you do some research, and keep up with your meal plans, it’s really easy to make healthy substitutions that actually taste good.
Cut the booze
We all know that booze contains calories (although I often like to pretend it doesn’t), and with zero nutritional benefit, they’re empty calories too. But it’s not just the impact of the booze itself that’s unhealthy, it’s also the food choices you make because of it. How many times have you been guilty of getting a massive kebab, burger or tray of cheesy chips after a big night out?! Or even after only a couple of afternoon drinks, come home and no longer had the energy to make the meal you’d planned and reverted to a takeaway. And what about the next day? I’ve been known to consume a weeks’ worth of carbs in order to combat a bad hangover.
The reality is, if you want to stay consistent, make healthy choices and avoid impulse junk, the booze has to go.
Do you have any of your own top tips for healthy eating to share?