Let’s talk about healthy eating. That’s right, although I enjoy a lime tree pizza as much as the next person, it is important to think about what you are eating at university. Between the pot noodles and the ready meals that are a staple of student life, you also need to ensure your body is getting everything it needs from the food that you eat.
Firstly, carbohydrates. Your meals should be based on high fibre, starchy carbohydrates such as potatoes, bread, rice, or pasta (see, there’s no excuse pasta is a go-to easy student meal!). In fact, carbohydrates should make up just over a third of everything you eat. It’s also important to note that there are many wholegrain varieties of carbohydrates, such as brown rice, brown bread and wholewheat pasta. These wholegrain foods normally contain more fibre and vitamins and minerals than their white counterparts, so it’s good to eat these when you can.
Next, your diet should contain proteins. For example, beans, pulses, fish, eggs and other meat. These proteins are important for your body to grow and repair itself. If possible, aim to eat two portions of fish per week, including one portion of oily fish like salmon, trout or mackerel. You should also try to eat less red and processed meat, like bacon, ham, and sausages. This doesn’t mean cut them out altogether – you can still enjoy a bacon bap from the pitstop in the morning – just be conscious of how often you eat these red meats. In terms of proteins, pulses including beans, peas, and lentils, are good to eat, as they are usually very low in fat but are high in fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals, so try to chuck some of these into the next meals you make!
Fats should make up quite a small part of your diet, and you should try to eat unsaturated fats as swapping to these can help to lower cholesterol. This is important as high cholesterol increases the risk of developing problems such as heart disease. Still try to eat unsaturated oils and spreads in small amounts though, as all types of fats are high in energy so you should eat them in little amounts.
Now, let’s talk about dairy. In your diet, you should have some dairy or some dairy alternatives, for instance soya drinks. Cheese and yogurt are dairy products, that are also good sources of protein. They also contain calcium which helps to maintain healthy bones, which I’m sure you were told at a young age if your upbringing was anything like mine. When buying dairy products, choose semi-skimmed, 1% fat or skimmed milk as this is healthier than the full fat version. In the same vein, try to buy lower fat hard cheeses and lower fat, lower sugar yogurt, as these are better for you overall than higher sugar and fat alternatives. Additionally, when buying dairy alternatives choose calcium-fortified versions (again, for your bones) and unsweetened versions that are lower in sugar.
Now, you might think there’s an important thing missing so far and you’d be right: fruit and vegetables. Yes, we are onto that all important 5 A Day you’ve had instilled into you since primary school. Obviously, fruit and vegetables are very good for you, and the idea of 5 A Day aims to ensure you are eating enough of these to promote good health. So, what actually constitutes one portion of the five? Here are just a few ideas of what you can eat to get some of those 5 A Day into your diet. One singular apple, banana or orange is one portion of fruit. As is, two small fruits like plums or satsumas, seven strawberries or one heaped tablespoon of dried fruit like raisins. Where vegetables are concerned, two broccoli spears are one portion, and so is three heaped tablespoons of cooked vegetables like sweetcorn and carrots. Finally, beans and pulses can count towards your 5 A Day, so you could eat three heaped tablespoons of baked beans, kidney beans or chickpeas to achieve one of these portions.
That is a quick rundown of eating healthily as a student. Try and give some of these things a bit of consideration next time you complete your next food shop. If you need any help planning your meals and balancing your 5 main food groups, give the Eatwell Guide a google to give you a better idea. Wishing you good meals, and good health!