How To Stay Healthy at University • HEALTH & FITNESS

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Being a student can often come with the stigma that you are lazy, messy and unhealthy (whilst on the most part this often lies true when I've got piles of Selfridges bags at the end of my bed and magazines stacked on my bedside table as I catch up on TV and Netflix in bed). This post is a few of my tips for keeping your diet in good spirits and my bank balance on track.

So if you don't know by now, I'm all about being nutritious and healthy in my eating choices, which isn't too difficult as a vegan, so I usually buy cheap vegetables I can use for multiple meals throughout the week in things such as stir fry's, soups and of course roasting with potatoes. But I feel that being healthy at university is less about what you buy and more about how you choose to spend money on food. Bare with me as you read my five tips on how to shop smart that will make your basket look a whole lot healthier.

1. Plan your meals and prep them - This first tip isn't crucial and one that will necessarily work for everyone, however I find it a really useful way to make sure you use up everything in your cupboards and fridge without things going off and end up being wasted. I am a big promoter of recycling, reusing and reducing waste so I try to buy things that will store for a long time in my cupboards such as herbs and spices that will make simple vegetable dishes taste more 'exciting' and oats and unsweetened almond milk with I can store without worrying about it going funny in texture or smell. By doing this you will find you can make more things with less items, rather than having to get a delivery of something high in fat, salt and carbohydrates because you've run out of dinner options - an easy way to add pounds to your body that are now lost from your purse. The second part of my tip is prep. Prep. Prep. Prep! There's nothing better than coming home from a long hard day and knowing you don't have to cook because you made a large batch of whatever you had the night before, which you can just heat up. Leftovers rule. So make a huge pasta dish with vegetables, rice noodles with a sauce or lots of steamed vegetables and pack them into air tight containers (Chinese take out boxes are a good one) and stock your fridge up with your week of meals. Quick, easy done. Now instead of making lots of meals and taking your time you can just whip out one of your containers (which you could label with the days of the week on so you know which to eat in which order of freshness) and either heat them up on the hob or in the microwave, depending on how you prefer to cook things such as soups etc.

2. Set a list and budget the items on it - This might sound like an obvious one but the amount of times I have been to the supermarket without a shopping list and ended up coming home with lots of random impulse purchases that I don't need and didn't think I wanted. By doing this I always end up spending way more than I had planned and have to think about my future purchases for the week. So following on from my first tip, look at your meal plan and the ingredients you will need, what you already have (such as pepper, ketchup, tea bags, etc. Things you won't buy on a weekly basis) and write a list accordingly. At the bottom of the list write a budget of how much you are going to spend. For me I don't like to go over £30-40 for a week, unless I'm buying a bulk shop of things like toiletries and cleaning products, which are more expensive but last me a month or so - Of course you don't have to spend this amount, this budget is dependant on your own financial situation. Now with your chosen budget, next to each of the items then think about how much you are willing to spend. Where are you going to splurge and where are you going to save? What are your priorities? This will help you keep within your budget and not impulse purchase things that aren't on your list. As well as having a list will keep you focused to certain aisles only and not have you roaming around the whole supermarket looking at things you don't need and getting drawn into the deals on junk food they offer.

3. Don't buy snacks! - I found that the easiest way to staying healthy is to not buy snacks. Avoid crisps, sugary biscuits and sweet things and other processed junk food that you will be more tempted to reach for when you are feeling lazy and unmotivated to cook. If you're someone who's always running around and on-the-go, the idea of carrying a tub of soup around isn't always practical so buy bulks of almonds, cashews and macadamia nuts, cereal bars and dried fruit which have natural sugars, healthy fats, carbohydrates and protein in them to keep you energised throughout the day and stop you going into shops when you're out and buying overpriced snacks and drinks to keep your energy levels up. Going to markets or world food stores for these items is often a lot cheaper than buying the supermarkets high priced snack packs and smaller sized bags. Stock them in cute clear jars in your cupboards and then fill a sandwich bag or small container with your mix of healthy nibbles for the day. But whatever you do, don't be tempted by the deals at the end of the aisles.

4. Keep inspired - Feeling bored and uninspired by your food is never a good feeling. Going to your cupboards and feeling disappointment that there's nothing that makes you excited to eat. So make sure you have variety, look at pinterest (you can view my board of recipes and ideas here) watch youtube videos of people cooking and enjoying food, asking your friends for their own recipes, anything that will get you to cook good quality, highly nutritious meals that you know what has gone into it and the contents of the ingredients. Wasting money on fast food choices that you will instantly regret in the morning through feeling sick or bloated or even looking at your account balance the next day. Make sure your diet is varied with lots of fruits, vegetables and things that you want to try. Keep setting yourself targets and goals on things you want to achieve, whether it be learning to cook altogether or whether there are certain dishes you want to learn how to cook or even just experimenting with new cuisines you haven't tried. Fancy a thai green curry? Or maybe sushi? Getting to cook with friends is always a fun way to try things out without the pressure of going wrong and being stuck by yourself not knowing what to do. I'm always on the look out for new meals I can rustle up for lunch or dinner!

5. Treat yourself - Now this is an important one that may sound contradictory to the previous four tips I gave, however, it is important not to starve your body of any pleasure or luxury that comes from eating. So when I'm budgeting my £30-£40 a week on food, I always take into account my 'treats'. There are two ways I approach this and each week depending on my schedule, who I'm seeing and where I'm going out I shall rotate these accordingly. Making sense so far? My dietician told me that I should live my life by the 80-20 rule. 80% of my food intake should be solely based on what nutritional benefit and purpose it gives my body to function, and 20% of it should be made of an necessary sugar or fat that I want because it's a treat. This is a system that works brilliantly for me purely because I have made it work for me in the following way... two small treats spread throughout the week (say on a Wednesday and a Friday) which for me consists of something with a low amount of caffeine in it (- caffeine and fizzy drinks I try to avoid at all costs) such as a drink from Costa with my friends. Sometimes my boyfriend and I will share some Oreos when we are cuddled up in bed of an evening. Or maybe a take out veggie sushi from Itsu etc. when I'm out shopping. Or one big treats such as going out for dinner with friends or out with my boyfriend, or if I'm not going out for an evening meal, I might go out for brunch and have a dairy and gluten pancake from My Old Dutch with my friends topped with fruit and no sticky sauces. This way I can still have my treats in healthy way, in moderation, and make it a social occasion and a reason to go out and look forward to something, rather than boredom eating a packet of Rich Tea's in front of The Real Housewives of Cheshire and Made in Chelsea. The attachment of going out to have a treat adds value to the occasion and what you're eating, as well as keeping within the budget of what you've accounted for in terms of spending.

And there you have it! My five tips for staying healthy in the choices I make when it comes to eating and staying on a student budget, as much as I love going out, I do enjoy a meal with my flatmates of something delicious I have cooked. I hope you have found this post at least somewhat inspirational or motivating... if not, I hope you enjoyed reading it anyway.
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