There are a lot of excuses for not eating a healthy diet when you’re a student. You’re poor, you don’t have the time, you don’t have the facilities, and you’re being offered cheap junk food each and every day. Who wants to go home to lentils and yoghurt when there’s someone outside the library offering you a flyer for a £1.99 pizza?
In my first year of uni, I lived on a diet of takeout, canteen dinners, prepackaged wraps, bacon sandwiches, and vodka. Sometimes I would cook the bacon on a George Foreman grill instead of frying it in a pan, and this was considered the epitome of healthy eating. Canteen dinners were all stodge, cheese and chips. There was a salad bar, complete with some sad, lifeless lettuce, and a bowl of grated cheese to sprinkle on top. Unsurprisingly, I gained weight. My weight was never a huge issue, and I don’t have an inspirational weight loss story to share with you today, but I felt awful. I was spotty and my jeans were too tight. By the time I was in my second year, I had moved out of halls and was ready to start eating properly. It wasn’t always easy, and I won’t pretend that I haven’t touched a pizza and chips since, but now I make a conscious effort to eat things that are good for me. The most surprising thing I discovered was that it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. I tracked down the nearest greengrocer and butcher, so I was able to stock up on super cheap lean meat and fresh fruit and vegetables.
Here are some recipes that I found were easy, cheap and healthy – the holy trinity for student food. As a bonus, they’re all delicious as well.
Sweetcorn fritters. I know they don’t sound like the most delicious thing in the world, but bear with me. How much does a tin of sweetcorn cost in the supermarket? About 50p? You probably have one hanging around in the back of the cupboard. Mix it with a few other staple ingredients, fry it with a little bit of oil, and there you have it: an unusual, elegant and easy dinner. If your budget doesn’t stretch to an avocado, go without.
Red lentil dahl. I know that lentils might sound like scary, flavourless hippy food, but I absolutely love this recipe. If you can find a continental store near you, you can probably buy a wheelbarrow full of lentils for pennies, but even buying a bag from the supermarket is sure to be well within your budget. The addition of Indian spices adds a huge amount of flavour. This is perfect on its own, or as an accompaniment to a meal.
Thai style turkey burgers. These burgers are delicious, fresh tasting and just a little bit spicy. Ask about minced turkey at the butcher, or look out for offers in the supermarket. A great idea would be to make the burgers and then freeze them, so that you can take it out of the freezer in the morning and have a tasty meal to come home to in the evening.
Finally, here are a few tips I was given that came in very handy: