Written by Elizabeth Curran
Whilst fancy wines and cheeses may not feature much in the average university student’s diet, there is one luxury we can all indulge in: the freedom to eat what we want without our parents standing over us, forcing brussels sprouts down our throats! It can be extremely liberating to experience this food freedom for the first time; however, navigating a world of nutrition and food choices can quickly become overwhelming. Throw in budgetary limitations and a worldwide pandemic and the enigma of healthy eating—a constant struggle between peas and pizza, broccoli and brownies—becomes even more tricky. Fortunately, there are certain tips and tricks students can utilise in order to make affordable, nutritious, and healthy food choices.
Healthy food trends are everywhere, but nutrition in university students doesn’t reflect this—did you know that under 5 per cent of young people eat the recommended amount of vegetables? Whilst there is a vast array of reasons for this, the media definitely plays a huge role. Two-minute noodles, buckets of coffee, alcohol, and sleepless nights—sound familiar? This is the university lifestyle that has been glamourised and normalised through the media. It’s understandable—student life often comes with financial stresses and a lack of time. It’s tempting to rely on these energy sources as a band-aid fix for stress and low energy, but unfortunately, they can ultimately result in you feeling sluggish. Movies and TV like to make it seem like you can feel your best without eating fruits and vegetables, but in reality, Popeye had the right idea—fruits and vegetables are essential for a healthy mind and body!
Okay, let’s make one thing clear: if you don’t like brussels sprouts, you don’t have to eat them! The same goes for tofu, chickpeas, and any other food that may not be to your taste.
Most people won’t like every single food that crosses their lips, and that’s okay. Fortunately, there’s no God of healthy eating sitting on a throne made of kale, smiting people down for not eating their greens! The trick is finding a balance of fruits, vegetables, proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats that most appeal to you and combining them into delicious meals. Healthy eating should be fun and fulfilling—not a chore. After all, you’re investing in being your happiest, most energetic self. Be sure to remember that there’s also nothing wrong with the occasional treat or takeaway. As you’ve undoubtedly heard a hundred times, the key is balance.
Okay, down to the nitty-gritty—here are tried and true tips for eating healthily as a university student experiencing a pandemic!
- Plant protein sources are one of the cheapest foods out there! Stock up on $0.75 black beans from Aldi and have a Mexican night!
- Dried dates, dried apple, and sultanas are among the cheapest dried fruits and are perfect for mindless munching while studying.
- Raw, crunchy spinach is not to everyone’s liking, but it is much easier to eat when it’s cooked down, especially with buttered mushrooms on toast.
- Get long-life plant milk, as it will keep better than milk that has to be stored in the fridge. Now there’s no pressure to drink it all at once!
- Grab a bag of frozen mixed veggies at your next shop—these are cheap and will go a long way, plus they’ll add some extra nutrients to dishes like pasta and noodles.
- Frozen fruit is often cheaper than fresh produce and will last longer, meaning less trips to the shops. Frozen mango and blueberries make great study snacks—just have a blanket handy if you’re eating them during winter!
- If you’re finding you have a current lack of motivation to cook, try turning simple toast into a more well-rounded meal by adding some protein and fruits or veggies. Hummus and shredded carrot or peanut butter and banana are both delicious combos with satiating protein.
- Switch out your instant coffee for decaf coffee, at least a few times a day. Anxiety can be high at the moment, and too much caffeine can make it worse.
- Because we’re all inside a lot, snacking can be very tempting. Keep it healthy and cheap by making a mix of sultanas, dark chocolate chips, and pumpkin seeds.
- Finally, the cold weather we’re experiencing in Melbourne can make drinking cold water seem very unappealing. However, it’s still important to stay hydrated! Try hot water with lemon juice or herbal teas.
Remember to experiment with these tips and find what works for you! Even making small changes in order to increase fruit and vegetable intake can make a huge difference in the long run. Keep sipping that water, crunching those veggies, and remember—this current time is really hard. Have patience and empathy for yourself, your eating, and your nutrition!
Cheap and Healthy Dinner Idea: Stuffed Sweet Potato!
Recipe inspired by Simple Vegan Blog.
- 1 medium sweet potato
- 1/2 cup canned or cooked black beans (75 g)
- 1/2 cup canned corn kernels (70 g)
- 1 tomato, chopped
- 1/4 red onion, chopped
- Fresh parsley to taste, chopped
- Preheat the oven to 200ºC.
- Wash the sweet potato and prick it a couple of times with a fork or a knife to allow steam to escape.
- Bake it on a lined baking sheet for 50 to 60 minutes or until they’re very tender.
- Remove from the oven and cut the sweet potato in half lengthwise.
- Top with black beans, corn, tomato, onion, parsley, and hummus and serve immediately.
- Best served fresh!
Elizabeth Curran is a responsible and enthusiastic 21-year-old, currently undertaking her final year of a Bachelor of Public Health and Health Promotion. She is passionate about equity in health, positivity, inclusivity, and human rights. Elizabeth’s other hobbies include fitness, baking, and writing.