Going away to university or college can be both an exciting, and very busy time for the new student. However, all that time burning in the midnight oil in the library – not to mention attending daily lectures and the need to blow off a little steam in the student bar every now and then can seriously take its toll.
This is why it’s especially important that students do their best to maintain their health and fitness. After all, you don’t want to fall behind in your studies by spending too much time tucked up in bed nursing the flu or other common illnesses that can easily be prevented by having a healthy and strong immune system.
One of the easiest ways to help your body to manage the day-to-day stresses when you’re in college or university is by ensuring that your body gets the proper nutrition. This means not only knowing how to cook, but also what to cook.
So, to make it easier for you to do so, here are my practical tips to you maintain a healthy diet as a student:
1. Bring (or Buy) the Right Tools
First things first, you are going to struggle to cook delicious healthy meals without the right kit! You also can’t assume that your student accommodation will come equipped with everything you need. In fact, if you end up only with a working refrigerator and an oven or stove – you’ll be ok.
It will, therefore, stand you in good stead going forward if you arrive with the right tools for your kitchen. As the very basics we’re talking:
- Two non-stick skillets – one small, one large. Yes, non-stick is not perfect for every meal but it is the most versatile and easy to use a skillet. Just clean it carefully – give it a gentle cleanse in warm water (with soap). Note that you shouldn’t don’t scrub it so that it will last longer.
- A Chef’s knife – Invest in one good quality Chef’s knife. It is designed as a utility knife, making it ideal for everything from shredding herbs, chopping beg even de-boning a chicken. Don’t buy the cheapest, but you also probably don’t need to blow hundreds of dollars in it. Find a good middle ground and you’ll have a knife that will see you through your whole degree.
- Saucepans – at least two, one deep and large enough to cook pasta or a big old pan of soup, another smaller for making sauces or reheating single portions of, for example, soup.
- Other things, like peelers, weighing scales, graters etc – you can pick up as you go along, but the above is the bare minimum for a useable kitchen.
2. Build a Repertoire of Basic Recipes
So what are you going to do with all that equipment? Well, you’re going to put them to good use!
If you’ve not got much experience then pick up a few simple recipe books. Fast Food, by the British author Nigel Slater, is the perfect starter recipe book. Everything is easily explained, almost all the ingredients are very easy to source and, best of all, it all tastes great!
Beyond that, there are some easy classics that you should learn to master. A simple tomato sauce, made with chopped onions and canned tomatoes, can be the basis for an easy to make and nourishing pasta dish.
Soup, for example, makes a great student meal. It can turn healthy and cost-efficient vegetables and the cheaper cuts of meat like Chicken Thighs into healthy and nutritious meals. Make it in bulk (which is why we suggested the large size pot above) and, after you’ve eaten your evening meal you can freeze the rest of it in Tupperware boxes and you will have lunches and dinners to get you through the rest of the week.
A slow cooker, or a crock-pot, can be a great investment too. You can make great soups and stews with this wonderful little machine, except that you simply pour everything inside, give a good stir, close the lid and turn it on. You come back 5 or 6 hours later and – voila – you have a big bowl of beautiful soup ready to eat- a godsend when you are too occupied with your studies to cook.
3. Learn Complex Recipes (Great For Stress Relief)
Once you’ve mastered the basics, you might even decide that you enjoy cooking. After all, many people cook not only because they enjoy it, they also believe that it’s an effective way to relieve stress.
This then could be seen as another healthy advantage to cooking your own food. When it’s coming up to exam time and you’re stuck hunched over your laptop for hours and hours, it can be great to know that you have an easy way to release that pressure – and cooking can be it!
If you can devote a little more of your time to it, then you can start practising more and more complex recipes. You could, for example, make simple flatbreads in your skillet to go with your soups and stews. Just 180grams bread flour, a teaspoon (each) of salt and dried oregano, a tablespoon of olive oil and 110ml warm water. Mix, form a ball and knead for five minutes. Divide into 4, roll flat and throw into a hot skillet. Perhaps, with consistent efforts, you’ll be able to gain cooking skills that would rival professional chefs!
There aren’t many problems in the word that can’t be solved with warm fresh bread dripping in butter.
Hey, if you really catch the baking bug you could even impress your Physics Tutor by baking her a batch of homemade cookies!
4. Order a Veggie Box
Remember we said that good nutrition means knowing what to cook as much as how to cook it? Well, it’s true what Mom said – fruits and especially veggies are the key to a nutritious diet. Veggies are also great for students as they are both cheap and filling, meaning they are easy on both your waistline and your bank account!
It can sometimes be hard to plan in advance for using them, so it could be an idea to invest in a vegetable box delivery if such a service exists in your city. For just a few bucks, these subscription services will deliver a box of delicious, fresh – often organic – vegetables to your door every week!
You can ask for a random selection to be delivered, and it can be fun opening up the box every week, unpacking your lovely veggies and setting out figuring all the meals for the week you can take advantage of your newly arrived bounty.
5. Learn Some Useful Cooking ‘Hacks’
Finally, we come to the downfall of many students – the lack of time. With so much to do and so little time, there is going to come a time during the academic year when cooking is just the last thing on your mind. When the pressure is on it can be tempting to turn to your local pizza joint or to defrost a frozen dinner in the microwave to relieve the pressure. You must, however, try to resist!
Whenever possible, anticipate your busy school periods and bulk cook lots of soups and stews in advance. Store them in the freezer so you have a supply of healthy food to simply pull out, defrost and quickly whip up when time is especially tight.
There are also lots of cooking hacks that you can learn that will save you a whole lot of time when preparing a hearty, delicious, and nutritious meal. This cover everything from chopping techniques to making the dishes you prepare last longer. We recommend Cooking Light’s helpful kitchen tips to get you started on the right foot!
There you have it! Hope the healthy eating tips I shared above will be as useful for you as it has been for me. Remember what I said about cooking being an effective stress reliever. When you feel the pressure is adding up, step back, and take 30 minutes out to cook and eat something both delicious and healthy. You will feel so much happier when you are done and can go back to your work refreshed and ready to tackle whatever task, project, or test that comes your way. Best of luck!
By Clare, writer contributor in BookCulinaryVacations.com. She is part of the Content and Community team at SmileTutor, sharing valuable content to their own community and beyond. Clare’s passion is connecting parents & children who are looking for English tuition in Singapore.