I’ve always been comfortable with my size and weight, probably because I am lucky and have always been fairly active and never overweight. However, when I got to university I was a bit overwhelmed with the way some people, mostly girls, felt about their size and how they tried to change themselves.
There was nothing shocking, but for the whole year I witnessed regular gym attendance and a variety of diets from no dairy to the 5:2 diet (eating normally for 5 days, and then limiting yourself to 500 calories for the other 2 days).
It certainly made me a bit more considerate about what I was eating and what I was doing to stay fit, both of which are positive things – because even though I never really put on weight (presumably I have a very fast metabolism!) it’s still not a license to eat badly, i.e. lots of alcohol, ready meals and chocolate.
Now I’ve started to eat a lot better and I honestly think the best advice out there is to scrap these specific diets (they are hard to maintain and cutting out certain food types isn’t always good for you) and instead just generally try to eat healthily. You’d be surprised how enjoyable, easy and cheap healthy food can be.
I used the really useful website: http://www.mysupermarket.co.uk to compare supermarket prices, so if I’ve listed a price for a supermarket that’s not near you – just type in the same product/item into the website and you can find out costs for your local supermarket company.
What: Chicken eggs
Cost: £0.87 for 6 mixed eggs (ASDA) or £1.00 for 6 Happy Egg Co free range eggs
Benefits: Eggs are a student saviour – they’re cheap, full of protein, and they are a filling snack so you only need one or two to feel full. They’re also only around 70 calories each so you will fill up without gaining any unnecessary weight.
Try: boiling, poaching and scrambling. You can fry eggs too but they’re slightly less healthy. Use eggs to make an omelette for a tasty student lunch or dinner. Here are some healthy recipe ideas: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/collection/omelette
What: Bananas, grapefruits, apples, summer berries and more
Cost: Cheapest = 1 banana at £0.20, most expensive = 200g blueberries at £2.00 (Sainsbury’s)
Benefits: A mix of these fruits will provide you with lots of energy, essential vitamins, immune-system benefits and you need to be eating a minimum of 5 a day mixed with veg.
Try: buying frozen, tinned or dried fruit as well as fresh. They last for longer (you can store them for as long as you want until you need them) and they have the same, sometimes more, nutrients and benefits. Keep at least 2 fruit with you throughout the day for a healthy snack and try fruit and yoghurt for breakfast or a fruit salad for dessert.
3. Tinned fish
What: Tuna, sardines and salmon
Cost: £0.49 for 185g Tuna (ASDA Smartprice) or £1.07 for 105g Pink Salmon (Tesco)
Benefits: High in protein, lots of minerals including calcium and iron and high in omega 3 which is good for the brain.
Try: Eating the sardines on toast or chopping each fish into a mixed green salad with cherry tomatoes to try them out. Recipes for tasty tuna or salmon pasta can be found here: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/9649/tuna-pasta-bake and http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/creamypastawithsalmo_79948
What: Peas, lentils and beans (not just baked – cannellini, kidney, butter).
Cost: £0.49 for 290g of Mixed Bean salad (ASDA) or £0.89 for 900g of frozen peas (Tesco)
Benefits: Vegetarian-friendly, high in protein & dietary fibre – just avoid tins which have added sugars, salts or additives.
Try: Branching out and tasting some new beans with a tin of mixed beans. Peas are the perfect vegetable accompaniment to most meals (tinned fish, chicken, jacket potatoes). Beans can be eaten alone or added to salads or classic dishes such as chilli con carne which uses the kidney bean, here’s an amazingly simple recipe: http://studentrecipes.com/recipes/beef/chilli-con-carne/
5. Fortified cereals
What: Bran flakes, Special K, Multigrain Cheerios, Porridge Oats
Cost: £0.88 for 750kg of bran flakes (Tesco Value)
Benefits: They are fortified with loads of vitamins and minerals, and some are very high in fibre (bran flakes). When eaten with milk, you also help to increase your calcium intake.
Try: Mixing with low fat Greek yoghurt, 1% milk or adding some of your favourite dry fruits and nuts (raisins, dried strawberries, walnuts etc).
6. Vitamin B & C tablets aka Berocca
What: Effervescent drink and vitamin tablets containing a combination of B group vitamins and Vitamin C.
Cost: £4.40 for 15 Berocca tablets OR just £1.60 for 20 of Waitrose’s Love Life equivalent
Benefits: Not technically food, but these tablets help top up your vitamins and give you a natural boost of energy, which may help to remove your reliance on coffee, tea or energy drinks – they also help to supplement the vitamins that are naturally in food.
Try: Mixing with a pint of water in the morning with your breakfast instead of juice to cut calories and costs.
What: A grain-like crop similar to rice and cous cous
Cost: £1.69 for 300g (Sainsbury’s)
Benefits: High in protein, gluten-free, vegetarian-friendly and a host of other vitamins and minerals (iron, fibre, magnesium etc).
Try: Quinoa, like cous cous and rice, can be easily added to any meal on the side. It also works as a base for a salad and it can also be used to stuff peppers and mushrooms for a healthy veggie snack. Experiment with some of these recipes: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/search/node?search_api=quinoa&f=type%3Arecipe
What: Salad leaves, lettuce, tomato and cucumber
Cost: £0.90 for simple mixed leaf salad, £0.65 for whole cucumber, £0.50 Value round lettuce & £1.00 for 6 salad tomatoes (all Tesco).
Benefits: They are bursting with vitamins, good for your eyesight and immune system and they’re really low in calories (a bag of salad can be just 30 calories).
Try: Adding to every meal you have. Also experiment with different salad recipes – add canned fish, chicken, tofu, beans and quinoa to all of these salad ingredients for a healthy student packed lunch. Here’s over 1000 recipes to get you started: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/search/node?search_api=salad&f%5B0%5D=type%3Arecipe
What: Garlic – a pungent tasting bulb
Cost: £0.25 for one (ASDA)
Benefits: It’s packed with toxin-battling anti-oxidants, lowers cholesterol and is great at flavouring bland food.
Try: Chopping or crushing it (with a garlic press) and using it as the base for sauses, casseroles and soups. You can also try making your own dip or salsa and flavouring it with garlic. Want a specific recipe idea? Check the bottom of this article for inspiration: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/ingredient-focus-garlic.
Cost: £3 for 8 Activia 0% fat fruit yoghurt pots (125g) or £1.00 for 500g of fat free Greek yoghurt (Tesco)
Benefits: It contributes to colon health, boosts immunity (it’s pro-biotic) and is a rich source of calcium and protein.
Try: Mixing yoghurt in with your cereal or eating it in place of a sugary dessert. Bring one little pot with you for a delicious snack during the day. Try Danone’s new brand Danio – it’s a strained yoghurt which although is fairly sugary, it’s seriously high in protein and flavours are either fat free or low fat, and it’s seriously tasty.
If you have any other healthy food staples please comment!