Features | Healthy Eating at Uni
Amongst the variety of challenges faced by students during term time, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is possibly one of the most daunting. But while the constant emphasis on healthy living from concerned parents and the media alike can seem overwhelming, LSi has some friendly advice to help you avoid the potential pitfalls of balancing your diet with your diary.
“Healthy eating”; it’s an annoying phrase, isn’t it? It’s one of those irritating buzzword couplets like “regular exercise” or “responsible drinking” which try and sculpt us into upstanding 21st century go-getters by pointing out the error in life’s minor indulgences. However, regardless of the ever so smug peppy tinge the expression has to it, it’s pretty important to eat right, otherwise you’ll find yourself with arteries filled with the same thing they used to make gruel in medieval times. Nasty.
So listen up, because the fight for healthy eating isn’t going to be easy, especially as a student. In fact, it’s pretty hard. I’d argue that it requires something which students simply don’t have – a settled, more mature lifestyle. Healthy eating, in the traditional sense, skips hand in hand with having enough time and enough money to include some variation in your diet. If you don’t have this going for you, then it’s going to be a pretty arduous quest.
For example, it’s Monday afternoon and in the name of improving your grub you find yourself in the middle of Leeds market, trying to decipher the numerous cries of the people selling fruit and veg. Once you’ve clocked on that you can buy a whole lettuce for 38p, you immediately snap one up, along with about six or seven other types of veg that you’ve proudly managed to identify. At home and still rejoicing in your accomplishments, said groceries are given pride of place in your fridge, next to the questionable-smelling carton of milk your flatmate forgot to drink. “Silly them” you think. However, the week that follows is hectic to say the least, and lack of time saps your willingness to cook; you’ve got Snowriders socials, last minute seminar prep every night, korfball practice, and before you know it Monday’s come back around. You open up the fridge and discover to your dismay that your pile of fresh healthy vegetables have become fetid mulch, visually resembling chocolate pudding but nowhere near as appealing.
Once you’ve taken the quick and occasionally foul-smelling learning curve that is the science of fresh vegetables, you become slightly more attracted to cooking stuff on the day you get it, and freezing things so you can reinvigorate them at your leisure. You discover how cheap chopped tomatoes are, and the myriad of things you can do with them. However, this becomes a little tiresome when you’re deciding what to have for dinner, and your freezer is a gallery exhibiting variants of tomato based sauces. Chillis, curries, pasta sauces – all slightly different in their makeup but still united in bland repetitiveness.
Disillusioned with this economically positive but oh-so-dull collection of Tupperware tubs, you decide to go food shopping the next day in search of more exciting, outside-the-box ways to fill your stomach. However, little did you know that your housemate’s parents have come up for the day, equipped with not only with tales of how their dog is doing, but also a whole selection of treats from home and supermarket alike. In any other circumstances, leaving you with a fully stocked fridge would be fine, but you end up making a vile concoction out of everything you couldn’t fit in said fridge.
When the odds are stacked against you, it’s easy to fall into the clutches of the delicious behemoth that looms over us all, watching and waiting until we crack – takeaways. What starts off as recognizing that an 18” slice of pizza for one pound is a good deal, will soon turn into justifying that four 7” pizzas for 10 pounds is an ever better deal. You end up planning your week around what deals the chicken shops in your general vicinity have on each night, and before you know it you wake up on a hazy Sunday morning to find that your room has become an enclosure for weirdly anthropomorphic chicken and pizza boxes, mouths hanging open, gawping at you as if to say “LOOK AT YOU”.
Obviously the above is an exaggerated version of my own experiences, but you get my point: eating healthily is hard for students because the typically ‘student’ lifestyle lacks the structure and repetition that someone in full-time employment has. You might not have the time to cook every single day, or it might be that you can’t afford to regularly buy things, which means the only healthy meal you can make is of the aforementioned chopped tomato-based variety.
But, in accepting this, the pressure weirdly vanishes. The shackles of healthy eating no longer exist: your newfound understanding of the term enables you to start slowly building up a food routine of your own, one that works with the way you live. Oven chips live in harmony with homemade chilli, the occasional takeaway no longer strikes fear into your heart, and perhaps most importantly, your experiences with rotten vegetables and excessive frozen meals have provided you with numerous strings to your gastronomic bow.
Ultimately, “healthy eating” shouldn’t be about stress or struggle; it’s about your diet and your lifestyle becoming best friends. And if you haven’t tried curry made from tomato soup yet, therein lays nirvana.