Student Cooking and Healthy Eating

On this page you can find tips about healthy eating and cooking.

Healthy eating

Budgeting

It’s a myth that eating healthily is expensive. It can be cheaper and more nutritious to buy basic ingredients and make your own meals.

Buy unbranded / shop branded products at supermarkets and shop around at local grocers and markets. Avoid wastage by planning your meals. For more tips on keeping costs low, visit the Student Money Advice Team’s Managing Your Money pages.

Nutrition

To make sure you’ve got enough energy, vitamins and nutrients you need to have a balanced diet. A third of your diet should be starchy carbs like porridge, bread, potatoes, pasta and rice – these are your best source of energy and will make you feel fuller for longer, as well as having less calories per gram than fat or protein.

Another third of your diet should be fruit and veg – at least 5 portions a day. They’re packed with vitamins and fibre. It doesn’t matter if your fruit and veg are fresh, frozen, tinned or dried but aim for variety.

Your final third should be split between two food groups. Half should be meat and fish or other sources of protein like beans, lentils and eggs. Some of this group are also excellent sources of iron. The other half should be dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt to give you plenty of calcium. Go for healthier options by cutting fat off meat and choosing lower fat dairy options.

There’s still space to have a little of what you fancy – high fat and sugar munchies – but don’t binge.

In everything you eat, look out for the salt content. 6g a day should be your maximum.

The most important meal of the day

Try not to skip breakfast – it helps give us the energy we need to face the day. Research shows that eating breakfast can help people control their weight. Consider making yourself a sandwich the night before or having fresh or dried fruit ready to grab on the way out so you can eat on the way to lectures, without losing any sleep.

Kitchen hygiene

The healthiest diet in the world won’t to protect you from food poisoning if your kitchen is a biohazard zone. The key to staying safe is:

Cleaning – Wash your hands properly with soap and hot water after going to the toilet and before touching food. Germs spread and a splash of cold water doesn’t scare them.

Chilling – Keep food that belongs in the fridge in the fridge to stop bugs multiplying! That includes salads, dips, milk, cream cakes, sandwiches, cooked meats and cooked rice. Leftover pizza and curry can be recycled for breakfast, but only if you’ve left it in the fridge overnight. When you are stocking your fridge, keep raw meats on a lower shelf than cooked meats to stop them touching and to prevent blood dripping from the raw meats onto other food.

Cross-contamination – Bringing raw meat, poultry and unwashed raw vegetables into contact with each other is a bad idea. Cross-contamination is one of the most common causes of food poisoning, so keep raw and cooked foods separate and remember that germs can spread if you use the same knives or chopping boards. Keep surfaces clean and disinfect them with hot soapy water.

Cooking – Cooking your food properly so it’s piping hot all the way through will kill any germs. This is true for re-heating leftovers as well as cooking things for the first time.

Also keep in mind:

  • The Use by date tells you what date you should use something by. It is much more accurate than ‘the sniff test’ for avoiding food poisoning.
  • The best before date is more flexible and although the food probably won’t taste as good after the date it is unlikely to make you ill.
  • Furry food. Don’t eat it. Even if you have chopped the furry bit off. Moulds and other fungi produce invisible toxins, which can penetrate the rest of the food and make you ill.
  • If you drop your food on the floor, even just for a fraction of a second, it could be covered in invisible bacteria when you pick it up and you don’t want to be putting that in your mouth.

Further advice and recipes

The NHS have some excellent advice and recipes in the Food and diet section of their site. There are lots of healthy recipes, most of which tell you exactly how many calories you can expect from a portion. If you don’t just budget your money, but your nutrition too, this is particularly useful.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) have a guide to eating well for little money and even some specific advice about healthy, happy eating for exams and the summer.

The FSA has helpfully created a wide variety of recipes aimed especially at inexperienced chefs. With their permission, we’ve included the recipes to the right of this page.