As most of you will know, I started uni 2 years ago (at Surrey studying Nutrition) and am now on my placement year. I often get asked how I managed to keep up with my healthy habits and lifestyle when starting uni and I know that this is such a worry to some people, as it was for me in my first year! I shared a few tips in my blog post about how to find a lifestyle balance in a previous blog post, but I thought I would share some more advice on how to stay healthy when you first go to uni, especially on a student budget!
1. Frozen over Fresh
When it comes to food, it’s so easy for people to use the price of food as an excuse not to eat well, but my number one way to solve this problem is to buy frozen fruit and veg over fresh. You can pretty much buy anything frozen now, from broccoli and blueberries, to asparagus and avocados! It’s so much more cost-effective, lasts longer and actually takes a lot less time to cook than fresh! There are only things a few things that I do buy fresh including courgettes, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, bananas and apples, but even most of these you can get frozen now! So get chilly and get in that freezer section!
2. Bin the big brands
If there’s one thing that can save you literally hundreds of pounds on it’s choosing supermarket’s own branded things instead of the big brands. Things like tinned tomatoes, beans, oats, pasta, rice and so much more are all the same whether it’s got a Tesco’s everyday value label or is in fancy big-name packaging. There’s no need to splurge on expensive brands – it pretty much all tastes exactly the same, with very similar nutritional value and is probably all made in the same factory! So save yourself some beans for more important things!
3. Make sensible food choices
This may seem really obvious, but if you’re moving away from home for the first time where your parents have always done the food shop, you are now in the situation where the supermarket is your oyster and you are pretty much free to buy whatever you want! This can be completely overwhelming, and you may feel the urge to go crazy and buy foods that your parents never would. But try and choose the best foods that are going to fuel you well and make you feel good. Don’t go crazy and buy the entire shop; prioritise the essentials first and then keep the more optional foods for times when you have a little more money to spend! I’m not saying you can never buy your favourite foods, but don’t necessarily make them a daily addition to your trolley!
4. Meal Prep
Now a lot of people will probably be used to this concept, and it is such a good way be prepared with food for the week, saving time as well as money. Personally, I found it quite difficult to prep full meals last year due to the limited fridge/freezer space that comes with sharing a kitchen with 12 people! You will also probably find that you will have this problem. So, I did however, prep things like my breakfast for the next morning, or chicken breasts and mince meat or batches of chilli which I could cook in bulk and then either keep for the next few days or pop in the freezer to later defrost. Cooking my frozen veg to go with it literally takes 5 minutes, so you can have a healthy lunch/dinner with ease, freeing up more time in the day!
4. Exercise Regularly
It can be easy to neglect exercise when you first go to uni as there is so much going on with moving in, making new friends, starting a new course and just generally getting used to your new lifestyle. Don’t stress out about taking time out from the gym to settle in, but once you feel ready, find your nearest/most accessible/cheapest gym, get a membership and get sweating! I got myself a membership the day after I moved in, and found time to get to the gym during Freshers week, but it’s totally fine if it takes you a little bit longer to find your feet. I used exercise as just as much as a mental break as a physical workout – time to myself and time to reflect on my new surroundings and all the stresses and changes that were going on in the first few weeks: I’m sure you could benefit from treating exercise in the same way!
5. Join a sport or club
If you’re not much into the gym (or even if you are), one of my main tips is to get involved with a sport or club. Uni is the perfect opportunity to try things that are much less accessible back at home. For me, this was rowing: I joined my Boat club during Freshers Week and had the most amazing time during my first year because of it. Take a look at what your uni has to offer and sign up to new things. This is your opportunity to find sports and hobbies that you possibly didn’t even know existed! Not only will it keep you fit but it is the perfect way to meet even more people and make friends that will make keeping active and healthy more fun and less of a chore or struggle at uni!
6. Walk/cycle everywhere
One of my biggest tips is to keep active outside of the gym/sports by walking and cycling wherever possible. Walking is so underrated as a form of staying healthy because you don’t even notice you’re doing it! Ditch that bus pass and walk or cycle to uni, the gym, the supermarket, the shops. Not only will that mean you’ll be getting fresh air and keeping your activity levels high, but it will also save you money on public transport!
7. Don’t be afraid of alcohol
One of the scariest things about going to uni for someone who is trying to stay healthy is the whole binge drinking culture around uni. But honestly, do not fear. During fresher’s week I drunk pretty much every night: it didn’t set me back, it didn’t hinder my progress and I had some of the most fun nights out that I can remember. I promise, this will be the same for you! After Freshers I certainly didn’t drink as much because I am not a big drinker at all, but I still enjoy it in moderation. Obviously be sensible with alcohol and your limits, but don’t refuse to drink just for the fear of being “healthy”. On another note, don’t be afraid to say no to alcohol. People will always respect your choice to not drink: go out when you want but suggest doing other things that don’t involve alcohol from time to time, like staying in and having a film night or baking a cake!
8. Be yourself
My main point is to just be true to yourself. I was lucky enough last year that I was surrounded by lots of people in my flat, on my course and at the gym that were interested in the same things as me, and those who didn’t were simply intrigued and asked questions! We are all from different backgrounds with different hobbies and interests and that is part of what makes uni (and life!) so exciting. There will always be people who criticise you, your lifestyle and your choices so you have to do what makes you happy. Don’t do things outside of your lifestyle because it’s not the “norm” and you think you’ll be judged for it. People will like you for doing you, and if they don’t they don’t matter! Uni is a place to find people that you truly connect with and by always being yourself you will attract those friendships and relationships that will only lift you higher and allow you to live a happier life, and that’s what truly matters.
9. And lastly; DON’T WORRY.
It will take a little while for you to get into routine. It will seem scary at first. You will drink alcohol and you will eat unhealthily at times. But, most importantly: you will have the best time of your life. Your time at uni is one big adventure: it’s the time where you meet new people, find out more about yourself and the world, have new experiences and grow as a person. Don’t lose sight of all that just to be extremely “healthy”. Don’t forget, a healthy mind is just as important as a healthy body and you will find your balance if you just relax and embrace every opportunity.
I really hope you find this helpful and if you have any more queries, questions or comments feel free to get in touch, I’d love to hear from you!