As we focus on Be Healthy during May and June, we’ll be taking a look at a variety of different topics, including staying hydrated and getting enough sleep.
But first, we’re going to be looking at food health. Whilst many of us will know that eating five fruit and vegetables makes for a healthy daily diet, we want to look at other ways you can maintain healthy eating habits and enjoy everything in moderation.
We’ve found some of the best nutritional tips (some of which you may never have thought about…)
1. Understand the traffic light food labels
On most food, you’ll see labels that include coloured symbols for different elements of the food. These break down the nutritional values of the food into fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt – showing you how healthy the food you’re buying actually is.
Each of the values are based on your daily intake (known as Reference Intakes) which are guidelines to help you understand how much you should eat per day.
They’re great to identify when a product has a high level of something. For example, if a product has high sugar levels and has a red symbol, this indicates that you should avoid more products with high sugar levels for the rest of the day.
Remember to read the writing above the traffic light labels as this will tell you the portion of the product covered. This is really important as the traffic light labels might only cover a small portion of the full product. So a product with two green labels and two orange labels might look healthier, but this might only cover a portion. Eating it all in one sitting might be quite unhealthy!
2. Eat more mindfully
It sounds strange to suggest that you should think about your food when eating, but it helps!
Firstly, it might help to sit down at a dinner table. The less stressed you are eating, the better your body absorbs nutrients. Eating dinner and watching TV might be pleasurable, but we all know how stressful The Chase can get…
Then, try and savour each bite (particularly the first few as these are the bites you will enjoy the most). Your brain realises that your stomach is full 20 minutes after your first bite. So, by slowing down your eating, you’ll have eaten less food by the time your brain realises you’re full (instead of eating like there’s no tomorrow and feeling really stuffed by this time!)
3. Remove the temptation of a snack cupboard, but don’t forget to treat yourself from time to time
We all love to indulge on a sweet treat, and it can be very hard to cut out sugary snacks all together. However, it’s all about balance and moderation. We sometimes overlook the fact that we do need a small portion of sugar for our daily diet. And one slice of cake can actually make you feel less deprived, meaning you are less likely to binge.
If you’re finding it hard to stop binge eating sugary snacks, make it really hard to get them! It’s very easy to keep your sugary snacks in a cupboard in your kitchen. But, if you cut down on the amount you buy and feel a sugar rush on the horizon, think about how much effort it’ll be to buy more snacks! You’ll have to put your shoes on, make sure you have your keys, wallet and phone, lock up the house, and so on. For once, laziness triumphs…
4. Don’t skip meals and remember to have healthy snacks throughout the day
This one’s particularly important during exams. By avoiding meals, you don’t gain energy meaning your blood sugar levels might dip. This will leave you feeling sluggish and fatigued (something you really need to avoid during your exams).
By eating every three to four hours, you keep your metabolism running at maximum capacity, meaning you feel more focused. That means you can snack more often in between meals if you wish.
Remember – snacks high in carbs and sugar will leave you feel tired after a sudden sugar rush. Keep to those that are high in protein, fibre and complex carbohydrates, such as dried fruit, granola bars and bananas.
5. Buy simple snacks when on the go
It might be tempting to buy yourself a chocolate bar or a packet of crisps if you’re in need of a quick fix. But there are plenty of healthier alternatives out there; nuts and seeds are your best option as they have lots of flavour, lots of protein and very little else.
6. Cooking at home has multiple benefits
If you cook at home, you’re seeing exactly what goes into what you eat. You have the power to make what you want! You also have the choice of meal prepping, which can save you a lot of time when busy with other tasks. Take some time on Sunday evening to prep all your food so that, when it comes to cooking, it’s short and sweet.
You can also purposefully cook a large meal. Then, divide out a portion for dinner and put the rest in the fridge for the next day. That way, you’ve ensured another healthy meal for the next day.
7. If you don’t cook at home, choose healthier takeaways
Thinking Indian? Tomato-based or dry curries (such as tandoori) are more healthy as the meat is grilled rather than fried whilst, overall, the curry will satisfy your taste buds quicker than others.
If you’re going for Chinese, steamed and stir-fried options will stop you from over-eating.
And try to cut down on the stuffed crust pizzas when it comes to Italian. You can also swap out garlic bread for the healthier option of ciabatta.
8. Try not to eat at an irregular time
Did you know that, according to research compiled by the University, the time that you eat during the day could be as important to your wellbeing as the food you consume? By eating at an irregular time, you can disrupt your daily body clock. So whilst it’s great to boost your energy during a long stint at the Library, try not to make this a daily habit after your exams.
9. Keep drinking water
Drinking water is pretty important as it’ll stop you from overeating. However, did you know that dehydration can sometimes trick your body? Dehydration can sometimes leave you feeling hungry when, in fact, all you need is a drink of water. Make sure you keep refilling your water bottle when you study and don’t forget to drink at home.
And finally … We know it’s a busy time of year and so to help you with healthy meal prep we’ve got a giveaway!
To help with your everyday cooking, we’ve giving away 10 healthy cooking sets! From Vietnamese, to Korean, to Mexican, there are plenty of tasty dishes to be made.
All you need to do is share your top healthy eating tip (whether it’s one of ours or one of your own) on our Students at Manchester page. You’ll be entered into a prize draw and we’ll randomly select 10 winners. You have until midnight on Friday to comment your favourite place. Good luck!
For more information on the Six Ways to Wellbeing check out the website, where you’ll be able to find out much more on Be Healthy.
Please note: one comment per person will be accepted. Only current University of Manchester students are eligible for the competition. Winners will need to provide a valid student ID number when collecting their prize and be able to collect their prizes in person. Comments up until midnight on Friday 3rd May will be accepted. Winners will be contacted within 7 days of the closing date.