Top nutrition tips for new students
Thousands of young people across the country will be heading off to university over the next week or so, ready to start their studies. For many, it will be their first time living away from home, with non-catered students taking on their own shopping and cooking too.
For at least the first week, it’s all about meeting new friends and socialising, with plenty of late nights, alcohol and takeaways thrown in. For a few unlucky students, the partying will be followed up in a couple of weeks time, by freshers’ flu.
To clarify, freshers' flu is usually just a bad cold that students pick up as a result of their immune system taking a battering. A few weeks of partying, plus poorer food choices, a new social network and lowered immune defences occur just when colds are starting to spread.
So here are some tips to help you head of the bugs to keep healthy and strong at university.
Staying healthy at university: Getting the basics right
Here are some key areas to get right from the beginning.
Don’t be tempted to run out in the morning without breakfast, if you don’t have time to sit down and eat, grab some food and bring it with you to eat quietly in the lecture theatre, to keep your neurons firing.
Avoid sugary cereals which won’t keep you full for long and instead opt for cheap, healthy choices such as eggs and mushrooms, porridge with nuts and berries and overnight oats which you can pack up in advance and take with you. Remember to include protein e.g., eggs, nut butter, oats, nuts, salmon, seeds and avocado.
To keep your brain functioning throughout the day, keep hydrated and drink two litres of water at regular intervals across the day. Fill up a water bottle when you leave your accommodation in the morning and top up at water fountains across campus. Use herbs such as ginger and rosemary to add flavour or a squeeze of lemon juice.
Avoid drinking too many fizzy sugary drinks which are full of artificial chemicals and cause spikes and dips in energy, especially if they contain fructose corn syrup, which can heighten this effect.
Fruit and vegetables
Aim to eat vegetables with lunch and dinner, they can be fresh or frozen, but don’t opt for canned versions as they have a low nutrient value. Vegetables will provide a variety of nutrients to nourish your body, plus fibre to help you avoid getting constipated and to keep your gut happy.
Eat up to two portions of fruit a day for a rich supply of antioxidants to support your immune system, skin and energy levels. Sprinkle berries over breakfast and team an apple up with nuts and seeds mid-afternoon, to stop you falling asleep in lectures.
Eat a portion of protein at each meal to provide an array of essential amino acids, which will boost neurotransmitter production, to enhance your learning and memory. Top choices for breakfast are eggs and legumes such as cannelloni beans and chickpeas are a great choice for lunch and dinner. Think lentil curry, chickpea and chorizo stew and houmous, all of which are cheap and tasty and provide a plant food boost too.
For healthy omega-3 fatty acids, eat two portions of inexpensive oily fish a week, plus vegetarian milled flax seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. If you are vegetarian cut out the fish and go for the seeds and nuts. A really cheap oily fish to look out for is mackerel, you can find it fresh or pre-cooked in the supermarkets or tinned in tomato sauce for a quick lunchtime snack. Look out for salmon, sardines and anchovies too.
When choosing a cooking fat, opt for antioxidant-rich olive oil or coconut oil rather than inflammatory vegetable oils.
Pack up a container of nuts and seeds ready for those times in the day when we all typically dip in energy and need to top up our blood sugar levels. Other snack suggestions to fight off the tiredness include a healthy food-based protein bar such as the Naked range, teamed up with a piece of fruit or houmous and oat crackers, or Greek yoghurt and grapes.
You can also give yourself a head start at the beginning of the term by starting on a good multivitamin, which should help to cover any nutrients missing from your meals and snacks. This multi should ideally include zinc, vitamin D and selenium to support your immune system. Check out Nutri Advanced’s Multi Essentials tailored either for Male or Female health or Cytoplan’s CoQ10 Multi.
These tips should help to give you a great start at university and hopefully fend off freshers’ flu. Good luck!