Published in The Student Journals
This September my sister and I are both going to uni. She is starting undergraduate study whilst I will be doing a postgraduate degree. Recently, we have been discussing how we can try and eat healthily at university – my sister wants to get a good routine going from the start and I am desperately trying to think of ways to break bad eating habits from my undergraduate self-catered days and replace them with practical, healthily and quick solutions. So I have come up with a list of suggestions that will hopefully make healthy eating at uni realistic, varied and fun.
1. Draw up a practical plan
From past experience, I know it is easy to fall into the trap of eating the same old things thus restricting your intake of different vitamins and nutrients. To combat this, i recommend making a timetable of what you plan to eat each evening. The idea of making a timetable does seem a bit regimented so I suggest just keeping it as a sketch or guideline in your head. This will make you more conscious of whether you are getting enough variety in your meals as well as making your food shop more focused and therefore cheaper. You will not be buying or wasting food.
2. Indulge in window shopping
As students we definitely can’t always afford to eat out at cafes, but I recommend browsing several to gather ideas for how to make sandwiches, or quick hot meals such as jacket potatoes, more exciting. This could be in terms of the type of ingredients, their combination, or even the presentation of the meals themselves.
3. Pick those portion sizes
This is very important for healthy eating and reminds us that it is not just what you eat, but how much of it you are eating that matters. Particularly for new self catered students who are about to buy their cooking equipment, make sure the utensils, especially bowls, are not too big. I fell into the trap of buying huge breakfast bowls and before fully realising this was constantly on fused why the cereal kept running out so fast.
4. Breakfast matters
Despite warning about the size of breakfast bowls, it is fundamental to have a good hearty breakfast. This will set you up for the rest of the day and stop you eating more throughout it. I find that having a dollop of yoghurt on top of my cereal really makes the whole thing feel more substantial as well as tastier! To get a head start on achieving your five-a-day, I suggest having a glass of orange juice with your breakfast and chopping fresh, seasonal fruit into your cereal.
5. Snack smartly
Depending on your metabolism and how much you exercise, snacking can be a good thing. But only if the snacks are healthy. So ditch those chocolate bars and crisp packets for something that is actually going to make you feel good and give you a steady release of energy. Eating bananas would be my number one suggestion. Though if travelling this could get messy so a healthy cereal bar or couple of oat biscuits could step in instead. Additionally, a crunchy carrot is quite satisfying if you want something to get your teeth into!
6. Have a filling lunch
Having a filling lunch can help in many ways. It could prevent you snacking on sugary things as it makes you feel fuller and more energetic for longer. It also takes the pressure off trying to think of a big meal to cook at dinner time as it gives you the option of having a lighter evening meal. Even indulge in a hot lunch now and again – either make something that is easily reheatable or eat at the uni canteen once in awhile.
7. Set a challenge
Set yourself the challenge of cooking something new every month or two months. This will give you something to look forward to in your culinary experiences, introduce variety in a fun way and keep you interested in learning about meal combinations and cooking. Get tips off flat mates and see what other people are making. Even ask someone to teach you ow to make one of their own signature meals.
8. Cook with a friend
Cooking with others is a good way to relax about food and to enjoy what you make. That way, it doesn’t matter how long the cook takes. You might even pick up some tips from your friend on how to cook faster and more efficiently. Alternatively, you could try cooking for each other on alternate nights, a few times a week. Apart from keeping meal times appropriately social, it gives you a regular break from cooking, easily introduces variety to your diet and can even make the whole thing cheaper.
9. Eat with others
Eating with others will help you savour the food by marking it as a social event. Importantly, having conversations over dinner will stop you eating too fast and so will prevent over-eating as you will feel fuller quicker. Rather scarily, it takes twenty minutes for our bodies to feel full.
10. Embrace the freezer
If you are putting time into making a relatively complex or time-consuming dish, make to least double the amount and freeze it in portion size compartments so it can be enjoyed at regular intervals. This will make your cooking efforts seem worthwhile and hopefully encourage you to do more.