Eating healthily can work wonders on your energy levels and overall well-being, however, many think that it’s an expensive endeavour. I’m not going to lie, there is some truth to this: when healthy food becomes trendy, their prices tend to skyrocket. I often prioritise good food but my budget is far from limitless. Being self-catered last year and living out this year has pushed me to explore and learn that there are ways to eat healthily without having to file for personal bankruptcy in the process!
A good first step is to put fad diets and sensationalised “superfood” aside. Focus on maintaining a good, balanced diet consisting of all the macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. Here, I’ve comprised a list of tips and tricks for you to keep in mind if you’re interested in improving your health.
Tip #1: Always check & compare prices
Although Holland & Barrett prides itself as being UK’s leading health retailer, it shouldn’t be your only go-to place for healthy food. Tesco might be a convenient and relatively cheaper alternative but tends to be pricier than local grocers, such as Durham City Fruiterers in the Market Hall and North Road grocers: Durham Foods (Tip: Go before it’s just about to close) and Robinsons Greengrocers (Robinsons offer free delivery and give you 10% off if you show your student card). Offers tend to vary daily and some grocery stores announce their latest promotions online, so do take some time to plan your food shopping in advance!
Tip #2: Opt for whole grain, whole wheat & wholemeal variants
Carbohydrates are important, especially if you’re very active. Most people’s go-to carbs are bread and grains, and although I’m not going to tell you to drop your morning toast (I know how important this is to British people), white bread, pasta and rice are often stripped of filling fibres. So when stocking up, pick the brown, denser and grainier options (when buying bread, I tend to go for rye or spelt!).
Feeling adventurous? There are plenty of alternative grains to consider, such as bulgur, barley, and whole wheat couscous. Amaranth, millet, buckwheat, and quinoa are some gluten-free alternatives for those suffering from celiac disease or gluten-intolerance. These all have varying degrees of fibre, vitamins, and protein contents, so there will be something out there for everyone!
Tip #3: Cook in bulk & freeze
Stock up on veggies i.e. sweet potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, spinach, kale, cauliflower… the options are endless! Packed with marvellous nutrients, veggies can be enjoyed on their own (think salads and spiced roasted veggies!) or as a complementary dish to any meal ranging from pasta to curry stews and soup. Bulk cook on the weekends, divide into portions and freeze! Having homemade pre-cooked meals that are ready to reheat in a matter of minutes will not only make your life a whole lot easier, but will also keep you from reaching for those Asian pot noodles or splurging on unhealthy takeaways after a night out (something we all do!).
Tip #4: Pack in-between lecture snacks
Between-lecture snacks are often neglected on busy days. It’s ingrained in most people to eat three big meals per day, however, eating smaller meals more frequently can reduce cravings and keep your energy levels in check. Many of us often opt for quick and easy treats from the closest café or bakery but realistically, this is an unfeasible and expensive option in the long run. So, how do we avoid midday energy slumps and cravings? Pack fruit or a bag of natural nuts!
Whether enjoyed by themselves, added to meals or used for baking, nuts are a great snack to stock up on as they are packed with healthy fats, protein and taste delicious. However, despite their benefits, they tend to be quite pricey! However, don’t worry as Poundland carries a variety of raw nut packages and alternatively, if you’re ever in Newcastle, Grainger Market has a selection of relatively cheap and loose weight nuts to choose from.
Tip #5: Go for natural yoghurts & consider dairy alternatives
Trade your flavoured yoghurt with a natural variant. Not only less in added sugar, natural or Greek yoghurt are also protein-rich, making them a great post-workout snack. However, it can take your pallet some time getting used to so I recommend drizzling a bit of honey and/or topping it up with some fruit, such as berries – great sources of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants (which makes it easier to control sugar intakes)!
If you are vegan, lactose-intolerant, or simply want to cut down on dairy consumption, consider soy or coconut yoghurt. Dairy-free milk is becoming increasingly popular and thus there’s a wide range of readily available options including almond, hazelnut, oat, soy, rice and coconut milk.
Tip #6: Drink black coffee & explore tea options
Energy drinks and many popular caffeinated beverages are often high in sugar and fats, so why not try to drink your coffee black? It’ll keep you alert and is exponentially cheaper. However, if you don’t like coffee, tea generally has much lower caffeine levels or is free from it entirely. Tea is soothing, filled with antioxidants and the flavour options are limitless – just go easy on the sugar (consider natural sweeteners like Stevia and Sweet Freedom) and enjoy in moderation!
Happy healthy eating!