Being a student on a tight budget means that prioritising cost comes with food shopping, often leaving the quality of food behind. Fruit and vegetables, salads and good quality meat and fish are often left on the shelves. There are, however, some simple and easy swaps you can make which are not only healthier but, in some cases, cheaper.
1. Give up meat.
Don't panic, I don't mean go veggie. But swapping certain meats for Quorn products is much friendlier on the wallet and better for your body. Chicken-style pieces and fillets as well as the Quorn mince and burgers are great alternatives for a fraction of the price. Containing much less fat and more fibre, they're much healthier. And, although I'm sure you won't believe me, they don't actually taste that different. Really. Especially in meals like spaghetti bolognaise and chili con carne, you'll barely notice the difference. They offer a wide range of options including southern fried chicken breasts, pieces, chicken dippers and Quorn roasts. Give it a try.
2. Try herbal teas.
It's hard to deny the lure of a hot cup of coffee or tea in the morning and it's equally as difficult to stop at one. We all need a caffeine fix from time to time, but a developing reliance on caffeine can seriously damage your health. Heavy daily caffeine usage, more than 500mg to 600mg a day (equating to around four cups of coffee), can cause problems including insomnia, nervousness, restlessness and stomach upset. Swapping your normal PG Tips for a cup of mint, fruit or green tea, which contain significantly less caffeine, is much more beneficial. Try green tea or, if you're not a fan of the taste, a flavoured green tea, which is renowned for its multiple health benefits, including a potential to fight cancer and heart disease.
3. Go brown.
Swapping white bread and regular pasta for the brown alternatives offers more fibre with all the goodness intact. White bread is refined, so all the good wheat and fibre is removed, and regular pasta can offer empty carbs if you are trying to lose weight. Breads containing seeds and wholegrain have a lower GI, which protect against heart disease and reduce hunger pangs.
4. Drink water.
I don't believe people who claim they don't like water. Firstly, it has no taste, and, secondly, there isn't anything more hydrating than a cold glass of water. Getting rid of sugary cordials (or finding lower sugar alternatives - High Juice cordials are good) and fizzy drinks largely cuts down your sugar consumption. Regularly drinking fizzy drinks can cause unhealthy weight gain and an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease. Although the caffeine in fizzy drinks can make you feel 'addicted' to them, they are more dehydrating than they are hydrating, so once you get over the initial effects of going cold turkey, it'll be much more beneficial health-wise.
5. Swap your potatoes!
Although I would usually recommend buying sweet over white potatoes, nutritionally there is little difference between the two. Instead, the importance is on which potato product you opt for. Rather than having chips, choose a jacket potato (without too much butter!) or herby roast potatoes.
6. Make your own takeaway.
Combat Dominos pangs with a fresh shop-bought pizza or a packet of ready-made dough mix to make your own - much healthier and cheaper (yes, even with a Dominos voucher!). If you fancy fish and chips, buy some frozen breaded fish fillets. Admittedly, sometimes you just need a takeaway. And that's fine; at the end of the day, the most important thing you can live by is 'everything in moderation'.