How to look good, get your life together, and save money

“It costs a lot more to eat healthy, chocolate is cheaper but it will kill us and it will kill you.”  -Portswood local, September 2015 These were the grim words […]


“It costs a lot more to eat healthy, chocolate is cheaper but it will kill us and it will kill you.”

 -Portswood local, September 2015

These were the grim words of a mother dismissing her son’s useless plea for a packet of fun size Mars Bars, which I overheard in Sainsbury’s Portswood as I myself picked up the offending chocolate bars. Unhealthy comfort food has become something of a celebrated British tradition, and especially as a student finally living away from the watchful eye of a mother who teaches yoga and sweats health, my first year revolved around bingeing on foods that led to an increase in fillings from sixth form to my second year.

A decline in physical health is common at university, especially as a fresher, and tackling the battle between a Jesticle or a cup of green tea may seem like a decision that will ultimately lead to forfeiting either a good time or your health. Judging by how many fantastically sculpted people there are fighting for a treadmill at Jubilee gym, later fighting it out for a space at the bar in Oceana, the decision between health and a social life does not need to be so mutually exclusive; having a great time whilst keeping fit are perfectly achievable goals, on top of which there is no one way to balance them correctly. Having been studying at Southampton for four years now I’ve come across vegetarians, vegans, meat-eaters, body-builders, the wheat/gluten/lactose intolerant, each with their own opinions on the healthiest and cheapest ways to cruise through University life.

The Portswood local I initially quoted was sorely mistaken when claiming that eating better was more expensive than a less nutritious diet. Unless this woman had gone from microwaveable lasagne to quinoa, asparagus and red snapper for dinner overnight, then she, like many of us, just wasn’t doing her shopping right. Because of the aforementioned number of fillings I’ve had in recent years, I really had to re-evaluate my diet and swap the Maoams for something a little less corrosive, but which would equally satisfy my sweet tooth. For the bog-standard consumer, my diet excludes no particular food group, and whilst being affordable, has also kept me in shape for the past two years since I lost my Sobar-belly. A healthy diet doesn’t need to be monotonous, bland or difficult, and can be easily incorporated in and around your lectures.

BREAKFAST

The number of people I know who skip breakfast ‘because they’re not a breakfast person’ is shocking. Trust me when I tell you that having breakfast immediately makes you feel like you’ve suddenly got your entire life in order, providing you with an air of invincibility for the rest of the day.

  • Porridge and milk (ordinary/soya/almond) or juice (apple or cranberry and raspberry), with an endless list of toppings if you’re feeling fancy that are easily discoverable on Instagram (trust me when I say there is a freakishly large army of people who devote their lives to oatmeal in the online world)
  • Eggs (baked, poached, boiled, scrambled, on toast, on a muffin, on their own, with seasoning, without seasoning, if you’re trying to impress a one night stand you’ve decided is pretty fit chuck it in an avocado hole and in the oven for 10 minutes, the options for this miracle of nature are endless)
  • Yogurt and fruit/honey/muesli (try and avoid granola- you might as well just eat a few spoons of sugar instead) or go wild and put all three on your 55p Sainsbury’s Basics Natural Yogurt (which FYI tastes just like the posh stuff)

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LUNCH

Lunches can become a bit more complicated especially if you have awkward lecture times that don’t allow you enough time to go home and avoid the overpriced ready-made foods they tend to sell in campus shops. And whilst the hot food cafes and bars do offer tasty and healthy options, as a daily expense most people’s wallets just can’t take it. Thoughtfully however, SUSU has placed a series of microwaves around campus without quite telling us their exact locations in the spirit of an adult Easter Egg hunt (without the chocolate but the same feelings of satisfaction upon discovery). Consequently, if you make a small investment in a Thermos and Tupperware box, your choices suddenly become a little less bleak than a forlorn cream cheese and cucumber sandwich from the SUSU Shop.

  • Soups don’t just have to be Heinz, and if you invest in green lentils, frozen peas, and a blender, you’ll be making home-made pea soup within half an hour.
  • Reheated leftovers. Always a classic (and weirdly, always better right?)
  • Porridge (if you’re as enthusiastic about porridge as myself your lunchtime becomes an endless horizon of toppings)

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DINNER

Dinner only became a thing when I came to uni- coming from an Eastern European household, our lunchtimes were a big deal and dinner was usually a slice of toast and jam. To avoid becoming a social outcast in halls, I changed my entire eating pattern and succumbed to the significantly larger evening portions that are now an integral part of my life.

  • Brown rice (people complain that it takes longer to cook than white rice, but if you’re willing sacrifice an extra five precious minutes of your day then choosing brown over white will benefit your health. In terms of carbs, which you should eat with every meal, try and avoid pasta as you get less for your money and the carbohydrates are nowhere near as healthy as those in its Asian counterpart). When I drain my rice I then tend to dry fry it in a wok with beans, peas or frozen veg and some seasoning, before I serve it up on a plate.
  • Baked potato and tuna/baked beans (try making your own home-made ones)/chilli con carne/salad/more or less anything you would otherwise have, just on a potato. Swapping cheddar for lower fat cheeses like feta costs the same but is much better for your heart health.
  • Frozen vegetables (cheaper, last longer, taste great and easy to cook)
  • Frozen chicken breast or white fish fillets (cheaper than fresh, and as far as I’m concerned if you season your meat well there is next to no difference in taste or texture)

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BANANAS

This food deserves a sub-heading of its own because it’s the jack-of-all-trades of the fruit world. Yeah they’re kinda boring to look at, but bananas are ridiculously cheap, high in potassium, a good snack on the go, but most importantly they have a host of uses other than being peeled and eaten.

  • Cut into pieces and placed in the freezer, frozen banana can later be made into banana ice-cream when blended with yogurt (and other fruits/juices to change the flavour), a lower calorie, lower in fat alternative to the real thing.
  • When over-ripe, a blended banana can be used as an alternative for butter in baking, but also in eggy bread. blend the banana with an egg and soak your bread in this mixture before frying on a small drop of oil.
  • Smoothies are the more viscous version of nana-ice cream (another area of Instagram devoted to a very specific kind of food), and go down a lot easier if you’re not a breakfast person. Bananas are great for making a smoothie more filling, and because of their deceptively bland first impression, go well with almost anything you choose to throw into the blender with it.

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So choosing a fun night out drinking may not have to end in a question of life, death and poverty at university, just be smart when you shop, finding solace in the knowledge that there is such thing as cooking in bulk, reheating last night’s dinner, and that not all fruit and vegetables need to cost as much as tender-stem broccoli.