Managing your diet while at university

When starting university, it’s likely to be the first time you’re away from home and not coming home to cooked dinners and a fully stocked fridge. 

Food is a major factor in your overall health and eating properly throughout your studies will leave you will feeling more motivated and help you perform better in exams. Not only that, it'll also strengthen your immune system and boost your metabolism.

Find something that works as a breakfast

In the morning, the importance of eating something that prepares you for a busy cannot be overstated. Try porridge or quick oats with frozen fruit or honey, a bowl of cereal, or even a brioche or croissant. It also makes financial sense to buy an insulated mug to make your own hot drinks and avoid overpriced coffee shops on the way to university.

Plan lunches that'll give you midday

During your day, it’s easy to be tempted with a meal deal from the campus store regardless of whether you live there or not. Those who live on campus can easily return home to grab lunch, which could be leftovers from the night before. If you live off campus and can’t get home for lunch, why not pack a Cornish pasty or chicken tikka slice and a bar of chocolate for lunch? Or bring a fork and take some tuna and sweetcorn pasta or risotto?

Personally, I sometimes have lectures, meetings or classes in the evening and know a packed lunch won’t be enough. So it’s really worth making the effort to find your university canteen or SU venue that sells cheap and well-balanced meals that’ll keep you going for longer (also avoiding the need to cook that evening).

Be sure to have an evening meal

Think back to what you enjoy eating at home and make it work for you as a student. When I have a free day, I like to spend an afternoon cooking for the week ahead. I'll whip up portions of fajitas and curries and put them into plastic containers so I've got meals ready to defrost at a later date. Frozen food’s a great time saver whether and things like frozen chicken kievs, pies and vegetables offer a quick, effortless dinner that cooks while you study.

This also offers the benefit of buying food in bulk instead of shopping every few days. Online grocery shops can be easier than walking to the supermarket and you can plan meals more efficiently and avoid products you wouldn’t usually buy. In summer, you could even buy seed starters and grow your own lettuce in the kitchen if you have a sunny windowsill. It’s a cheaper alternative to buying fresh lettuce that’ll go out of date before you get around to eating it.

It's not always necessary to eat out

Nowadays, there’s pressure from the media and social networks to always eat out. While the social interaction of eating out is an important part of university life, try to save it for special occasions like birthdays or festive meals with clubs or societies. A handy alternative to eating out are the meal deals that most supermarkets sell. Having dinner at home can be a nice treat, and it doesn’t have to be a roast on a Sunday either. Try a feast of fajitas or fiery curry that everyone can share midweek.

University is one of the biggest dietary changes you’ll ever experience, so managing a routine of well-balanced meals with the rigours of normal life will leave you with a great life skill for the future. 

Portrait of Callum Portman Ross

Callum Portman Ross

Biomedical science, University of Essex