4 tips for a healthy student diet, no instant noodles required

The University of British Columbia's nutrition and well-being manager offers some healthy eating tips for university students.

UBC well-being manager says proper nutrition is achievable with a little planning, commitment

Students on a budget often turn to unhealthy options like instant noodles. Nutrition and well-being manager Melissa Baker says that doesn't have to be the case. (Elsie Hui / Flickr)

In the busy life of a university student, sometimes the first thing that gets sacrificed is healthy eating.

Meals can consist of quick and inexpensive options like instant noodles or macaroni and cheese. But the University of British Columbia's manager of nutrition and well-being says there are ways for students to get the nutrition they need, without breaking the bank.

Melissa Baker offered up some helpful diet tips for students while speaking with host Rick Cluff on The Early Edition

Get your cooking skills up to snuff

Baker often encounters students who can't cook rice or boil an egg properly when they first arrive on campus. She says students who can't cook a basic meal will rely on a lot of take-out meals — and the costs can really add up. 

It's a good idea for students to bring recipes from home when they head to school, and to trade healthy, cheap recipes with their peers.

Baker also tells students to pick up a copy of World Food for Student Cooks, which focuses on introductory cooking skills and basic, inexpensive recipes.

Plan your food budget

As the semester goes along, students can often begin to run out of money. Baker says by the time exams roll around, she sees a clear rise in the number of snack foods being eaten rather than proper meals.

She says most campuses, UBC included, anticipate this and stock many grab-and-go healthy options. Baker says it's important for students to be aware of these.

Still, Baker cautions against small snacks. She suggests making a habit to get together with fellow students on Sunday nights to learn how to cook healthy meals together. She says if you develop the habit early on it should last throughout your school career.

"It can be a really great way to start gaining those skills before the stress hits and then having mechanisms to cope with that stress when it becomes exam time," said Baker.

Sleep when you get tired

It sounds simple, but for many students being away from home means losing an amount of self-discipline — especially when it comes to sleep patterns.

Baker says sleep goes hand in hand with a healthy diet. She says when students are tired they often won't have the energy to prepare nutritious lunches, eat breakfast or cook at night. Beyond that, students that are excessively tired begin to crave unhealthy food as a natural response.

Listen to your body

"Students say 'how much should I be eating? I'm not sure.' And I always encourage them to follow their hunger cues," said Baker.

She says other than three full meals a day, snacking should only be done when truly hungry. Baker often observes students eating due to stress. In these cases, she says it's important to have other coping mechanisms to turn to. She suggests walks with friends, going for a run or practicing yoga.

And finally, students should follow what Baker calls the plate model: visualize a plate half-full of fruits or vegetables, a quarter-full of whole grains and a quarter-full of protein.

With files from The Early Edition