A student’s guide to healthy eating

Leaving home to study is an exciting time for many young adults, and it’s often the first step towards independence and reaching their career goals. While many students travel to and from varsity every day, others don’t have that option, and live in a residence or house-share. Being away from home often means that ‘res’ students end up eating an unhealthy diet, with ready meals, 2-minute noodles and high-fat cafeteria food making up the bulk of their daily meals.

The simplest health trick for any student living on campus is to stock up on healthy snacks such as nuts, fresh and dried fruit, biltong and yoghurt. These are great for when you’re studying, and they keep you full between meals. As much as possible, cut out unhealthy snacks such as chips and chocolate – the biggest culprits for students gaining weight!

What to eat for breakfast

What’s great about breakfast is that it’s very affordable to eat a healthy and satisfying meal without breaking the bank. Your best options are oats, whole wheat bread, eggs, yoghurt, fresh fruit and 100% fresh juice. These are relatively low GI foods, which means they release energy slowly and keep you fuller for longer.

What to eat for lunch

Lunch time meals can include anything from a whole-wheat sandwich to pita breads. Try including healthy foods such as grilled chicken, avocados, tuna, peanut butter and veggie sticks. Remember to drink plenty of water throughout the day and try to limit your intake of caffeinated drinks like tea, coffee, soft drinks and energy drinks.

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What to eat for dinner

Dinner can be tricky. If you’re able to cook food in your dorm room, write up a weekly dinner menu and buy all your groceries in advance so you have them on hand. Quick, nutritious dinner options include chicken or tuna salad, stir fry, homemade pasta sauce, beef burgers and vegetable and meat ‘one pot’ meals. When you buy your groceries in advance it saves time and money. Plus, when you cook from scratch it’s often much healthier than res or take-away food.

On the other hand, if you’re fully dependent on cafeteria food, take a look at everything on offer first before making a decision. Find the healthiest meal and go with that one. If all the available foods are junk food, find a cafeteria on campus that offers healthier meals, even if it’s on the other side of campus. If all else fails, find a healthy food store that delivers fresh and nutritious meals, such as iHealthmeals.com.

Of course meal planning and nutrition shouldn’t be the main focus of your time at varsity, but if you’re maintaining a healthy and balanced diet you’ll feel better physically and mentally. And sure, break out with your favourite take-aways now and then as a treat!

Joanne Hart for HelloDoctor.com