Kate, Student Intern offers her tips for eating healthy at Uni, during exams and on a budget …
A quick fast food fix may look tempting when you are up late revising or doing the dreaded library day. However, your body and brain need proper fuel for revision. Eat fresh fruit and veg, swap chocolate snacks for high protein nuts, and try not to consume too much caffeine (I know I said it…) to ensure good quality sleep.
Eating healthily at university, trying to do adult stuff like clothes washing, and keeping up with uni work can seem like an impossible task, however if you know a bit more about what to buy and where to shop, you can eat well and healthily without breaking the bank. Here’s my top tips for healthy eating…
Planning ahead can be a life saver, social as well as with your food plan. If you know what you are going to be cooking and what ingredients you will need, you won’t find yourself wondering in Lidl spending unnecessary time, money and effort that could have been spared for Netflix breaks away from revision.
If you don’t have any idea what to cook, get searching online, there are so many great student friendly websites filled with easy student recipes. To single one out, try http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/collection/student. Once you know roughly what you are going to be eating, make a list and stick to it, obviously you aren’t going to follow the plan exactly (we are students) but getting into the habit of planning is definitely going to save you time and money and the dreaded gut wrenching feeling out throwing away half the food you purchased at the start of the week.
Student | BBC Good Food Get maximum flavour and minimum fuss with simple-to-make, cheap and filling recipes.
Know what foods are good for you
Fruit and Vegetables
Fruit and veg, the two words drilled into you from a young age, with adults telling you they will help you grow, make you see in the dark and sometimes even give you super powers. Well I can’t say these are all true but they will definitely help you through the exam period. Five portions a day will keep the library demons away. Although this may seem like a lot it is definitely do able. Don’t forget fresh, frozen, canned and dried fruit and vegetables count towards your five a day, so if you are one of those students that buys fresh fruit and vegetables but never gets round to eating it before it goes off, opt for the canned and dried goods!
- When buying tinned fruit, opt for fruit stored in juice, rather than syrup, to avoid added sugar.
- Use frozen vegetables to bulk out meat dishes to reduce your meat intake and making the dish more cost-effective. For example, add frozen peas and sweetcorn to stir fries and rice dishes. Alternatively, use frozen mixed vegetables with mince to make shepherd’s pie.
- Add tinned pulses (chick peas or lentils) to curry sauce instead of meat.
- Add tinned tomatoes, onions, garlic, olive oil to make a bolognaise sauce for a meatball or lasagne dish.
- Add dried fruit to cereal.
- Frozen berries are much cheaper than fresh berries and are delicious when added to natural yoghurt and honey. Opt for larger pots of yoghurt rather than individual pots as it is cheaper and they often contain less sugar.
- Swap meat for vegetarian options as it will be cheaper and better for you. For example, use one tin of five bean chilli for two meals instead of the meat equivalent.
Starchy foods are an important component of the student diet, these include bread, potatoes, pasta, rice and breakfast cereals (try to opt for the whole grain varieties). Starchy foods are broken down into glucose which is the main fuel for your brain. The brain plays a key role in ensuring you have an efficient metabolism, and it’s also kinda important for those long revision sessions. Therefore, it is essential to include starch at mealtimes. Long term avoidance of starch can cause the brain to register a false starvation and respond by slowing the metabolic rate, thus making weight gain more likely (a big no no).
Rice can be bought relatively cheaply and has a long shelf life. Similarly, couscous and pasta are great store cupboard ingredients and are quick to cook. Some cheap nutritious student friendly meals can include:
- Pasta in a homemade tomato sauce with cheese (because you have to treat your studied out body) to garnish.
- Stir-fries with rice or noodles, with leftover meat and vegetables.
- Jacket potatoes with beans or cheese or coronation chicken with leftover vegetables topped with cheese, bolognaise sauce or chilli.
- Spaghetti and meatballs.
- Use leftover potatoes and vegetables to make a Spanish omelette.
- Macaroni cheese.
- Buy pizza bases and add your own toppings. Use, for example, sausage, leftover meats, cheese, frozen peppers and sweetcorn. This is cheaper than buying prepared or frozen pizzas.
- Couscous salad with chick peas or leftover meat or fish.
Another important ingredient is milk and dairy foods, most people require a minimum of three portions daily. 1 portion equates to one-third of a pint of milk, a small pot of yoghurt or a small matchbox size square of cheese. These foods contain calcium which is essential for healthy bones.
- Buy plain natural yoghurt instead of individual pots as it is significantly cheaper. Then:
- Mix with meringues and frozen berries for a cheap Eton Mess
- Mix plain natural yoghurt with honey and granola
- Cheese on toast is a quick and nutritious small meal
- Buy mature cheese instead of mild as less will be required in cooking owing to the greater strength of flavour; a little goes a long way
- Cheese is very versatile and can be added to many dishes to add protein to meals. For example, pasta and pesto (personal favourite) topped with cheese adds protein to your meal.
Meat, fish, eggs, beans, and meat alternatives including soya
These foods contain protein and play an important role in allowing the body to grow and repair itself. Meat, eggs and pulses are good sources of iron. Oily fish contains omega 3 oils which play an important role in the prevention of heart disease. Current guidelines recommend consuming a minimum of 2 portions of fish per week of which one should be oily. Eating fish can significantly reduce your risk of having a heart attack and therefore contribute to a healthy heart. Oily fish include kippers, sardines, trout, pilchards, salmon, fresh tuna (not canned as oils are lost during the canning process), mackerel and eel. If you can incorporate these into your diet you are doing well, and your body (and mind) will greatly appreciate it. Do not stress about the cost of it either, frozen meat is usually cheaper and if you bulk buy and make meals the cost will be spread out over a number of days.
- Choosing cuts of meat which are versatile makes economic sense. E.g. buy minced beef or lamb meat to make kebabs (kofta kebabs), burgers, bolognaise, meatballs, shepherd’s pie and lasagna.
- A small cooked chicken can also be used in sandwiches, curry, chicken and vegetable savory rice dishes, and couscous.
- Turkey can also be used and is often cheaper than chicken.
- Oily fish can be very economical, quick and easy to cook. Try pan-fried/tinned mackerel fillets with rice/mash, tinned sardines/kippers on toast or pilchards in tomato sauce with rice.
- Fresh salmon and tuna can be expensive so look out for offers or buy them frozen as this is usually cheaper.
- Pulses are high in protein and fiber. Pulses, including baked beans, kidney beans, chick peas and lentils, are all very cheap to buy either dried or tinned.
- Buying dried pulses is more economical but some require soaking overnight before cooking and can take a long time to cook.
- Some pulses such as kidney beans can be as cheap as 20-30p a can, and can be used to bulk out dishes instead of using meat. A mixed bean chilli is also inexpensive and very healthy. Chick peas and lentils can be added to curries.
- Eggs are high in protein and a good source of iron. They are very versatile and quick to cook. Dishes including boiled/poached or scrambled egg, and omelets.
- Meat alternatives such as soya, tofu and Quorn are versatile and can be used as substitutes for meat or fish. All work well with rice, noodles, pasta and potatoes.
In general, meat substitutes are low in fat and many soya products are available to buy already frozen and therefore have a lengthy shelf life.
So there we have it! Your student friendly guide to tackling exam time one healthy snack at a time.
For more related posts check out the links below… good luck we believe in you!
- Easy eats vegan varieties
- Easy eats for students: Around the world in 5 rice dishes
- 6 ways to save money on food
- Watch our video ‘Dining on a Budget’
Exam Advice and Tips – more blog posts to take a look at
- Advice on dealing with anxiety before and during exams
- 20 tips to help with revision and exams
- 8 tips to help you manage exam stress
- Top tips for eating healthy during exams
- Top exam tips to help keep you focused
- Has a rough time during exams affected your performance?
Your feedback and help please
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Kate, Student Intern
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