With everyone kick-starting the new year (every year…) by being healthy, Instagram and other social media sites/apps are filled with photos and recipes of everyone trying the latest health craze – detox teas, paleo diet, quinoa, kale, etc. Admittedly, I am part of this bandwagon. I’m not a dieter per se but I love food crazes – I am all over chia seeds and nut butters at the moment.
However, it is quite hard to sustain and follow the current health craze/raw/paleo lifestyle, involving a lot of Medjool dates and coconut oil, if you’re a broke student. Not to mention, a lot of these ‘raw’ recipes heavily uses a food processor to do all the work… I am yet to see a KitchenAid in a student house.
Here are some ways I do to be healthier whilst living at university, which I hope will at least help some of you for a healthier year/semester!
1. Do your research. Yes, the food posts on Instagram do look amazing, however, looking at the ingredients closely, you will realise some ingredients are there for the mere aesthetics of it and can easily be discarded.
Also, some ‘it’ products are not really worth the hype/worth a second thought, especially if you are unfamiliar with its preparation/incorporation to your meals – I know a lot of people had trouble with using chia seeds at first. So before splashing out, do your research and familiarise yourself with recipes and more importantly, if you’re going to get your money’s worth – how often will you actually use that tahini?
2. Shop around. Finding time to shop with all your uni and social commitments is hard enough as it is but you can easily fit it in your busy schedule. I often have 9-5 days and I’ll head straight to my nearest supermarket after – this is usually the time they start adding discount stickers on food.
Shopping at places you might not normally go to might open you to new treasures. I’m a lover of NAKD bars but they’re far too expensive to have everyday as a ‘pick me up’ snack when the afternoon slump starts. Last week, I went to my local Aldi and found these bars, which have the same texture/consistency as the NAKD ones. They’re from their ‘The Foodie Market’ range; I’ve eaten one everyday and my verdict: very tasty – no artificial colours or flavours – and are so moreish!
3. Stock up. Having a well-stocked cupboard means you’re able to control what you eat, preventing you from hitting the shops when you’re hungry, and are more likely to come home with a chocolate bar.
Some of my cupboard essentials include oats, rice, quinoa, cocoa powder, dessicated coconut, coconut milk, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, chopped tomatoes, chia seeds, nut butters, pitted dates. For me, these usually stay the same throughout the year, changing the types of nuts and seeds I buy every now and then, and adding different dried fruits/produce for porridge toppings/trail mixes.
The fresh produce I normally have changes frequently. Usually, I’d have bananas, apples, oranges, leaf veg (kale/spinach) and whatever is in season. Buying seasonal veg and fruit makes for a cheap shop and it allows for a variety in ingredients every few weeks or so!
4. Eat smart. I tend to go for more natural ingredients/less processed products for my dinner and cutting back the unnecessary fats and sugars from my diet; I tend not to eat sugary things anyway, as I don’t like sweet/sweetened drinks too much so this isn’t a problem for me, but I know a lot of people struggle – use honey/natural sweeteners for this but portion control is still required, even if it is a ‘natural sugar.’
Snacking is a hobby of many students. Instead of reaching for that tub of Pringles, I usually have some nuts/dates with me to keep me going through the day. Fresh fruit, the odd NAKD/cereal bar and some Kallo rice cakes also make an appearance every now and then, especially if I am having a long day. Whilst at home, I tend to snack on toast + nut butter or carrot sticks/rice cakes + hummus; such great combinations of food!
5. Treat yourself. Have that cake or burger. It doesn’t have to be of the raw/gluten-free/refined sugar-free variety. It’s okay to have a treat every now and then and people can easily fall off the wagon by not treating themselves. I have found when I have not had sugar for a while, I tend to go on sugar binges – packs of Minstrels and peanut M&Ms have been consumed within minutes of buying it.
7. Hydration. I barely drank water during the day until this year; soon after, I have found out how dehydrated I must’ve been, depriving my body of water when nowadays, I have to have a pint or so every few hours. A lot of our cravings usually result from dehydration – resulting in unhealthy/unnecessary snacking. Be smart and pack a bottle of water everyday and refill it when needed.
8. Planning/organisation. This is one of the harder parts of my new-found lifestyle. I found myself waking up earlier and planning my next meal hours beforehand. This definitely took a lot of time to get used to, but is much needed. Bringing lunch to university is a cheaper/healthier way to eat – you know what goes in your lunch, so you can’t be too guilty of whatever you put in it.
I started by making slightly more food for dinner, allowing me to have the rest for my lunch. Once I got the hang of things, I’d use some of last night’s dinner for lunch the next day, whilst adding other components too, so as to not get bored of the same batch of roasted veg for the third day running.
9. More importantly: mental health matters, too. I make sure to go to a yoga/pilates class once a week. If not, having some downtime, by avoiding any form of technology, helps me too – reading books, arts/crafts etc. Sometimes people are so busy that they forget to just breathe – it can be as little as 10 minutes but it is still very important to just sit back and relax.
Is there anything else you do/did to make sure you are living the healthy lifestyle whilst (you were) at university?
Have a great + healthy wknd!