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Health > Food And Diet >Students healthy diet

Students: healthy diet, healthy body

A healthy diet is perhaps the most effective way to achieve a healthy body, inside and out. But regular trips to the supermarket for fresh food are not the priority of every student. And a tight budget can make healthy food seem out of the question.

However, cheap and longer-lasting alternatives to fresh fruit, vegetables, milk, meat and fish are available. Research has shown that there are no practical differences between the nutritional value of fresh, canned and frozen foods. In fact, fresh isn't always best. Canning can help release the most stubborn nutrients, while freezing locks in the ones that try to escape.

You should eat lots of starchy carbohydrates as part of a healthy balanced diet, so base each meal on a starchy food such as pasta, bread or rice. This is not only a low fat high fibre option, but these foods are often very good value for money.

selection of fruits and vegetablesThe most important point to remember is to try and incorporate fruit and veg into most of your meals. We should be eating at least 5 portions a day, whether they are fresh, frozen, tinned, dried or juiced. Mixing different coloured ones will ensure a good balance of nutrients. Here are the Institute of Food Research's top convenience food basics:-



Porridge oats are a perfect start to the day. A bowl of porridge is very filling and full of slow release carbohydrates which help maintain energy levels, allowing you to achieve full concentration through those difficult lectures until lunch.

Main meals:


If you pile a frozen pizza high with peppers, tomatoes, pineapple or fruits and vegetables in any combination, you will instantly create a nutritious hot meal.


different types of pastaNot only is this a low fat option, but it is very filling, easy to cook (important when you're sharing 1 hob with 20 other students in your halls of residence) and cheap to buy in bulk. Because it is dried food, storage isn't a problem and the long shelf life reduces the chance of a nasty discovery in the back of the cupboard at the end of term.

Mix a few canned tomatoes with dried herbs, garlic and onion to make an easy and tasty pasta sauce. Tomatoes contain a powerful antioxidant called lycopene that is thought to protect against heart disease and some cancers. Canning exposes food to heat, which helps to break down the plant cells in tomatoes, making the absorption of lycopene easier. The heat destroys some of the vitamin C, but vitamin E levels stay the same.

Frozen veggies
  • The freezing process involves a step called blanching, which washes the veg, kills any bacteria, and also an enzyme that breaks down vitamin C. So freezing locks in vitamin C, which in fresh produce decreases with storage time and "food miles".
  • Green beans and peas are a good source of Lutein, an antioxidant good for eye health.
  • Frozen spinach is a good source of vitamin C and potassium. Cooking it helps to release folic acid and beta-carotene. Folic acid is important for the production and maintenance of new cells in the body.
  • But avoid overcooking or using too much water, as most of the vitamins will end up in the cooking water.
Beans and pulses

Canned lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans and baked beans are all high in protein, carbohydrates and fibre. They can be used to thicken stews or soups, and are a staple ingredient in vegetarian dishes such as chilli and curry.

  • Spuds are filling and a good source of starch for a healthy gut, and carbohydrate for keeping up energy levels. Because of the quantity we eat, they make a useful contribution to our intake of vitamin C. They are also a good source of potassium, folate and vitamin B6, and provide smaller amounts of a host of other nutrients.
  • Baked potatoes can be the basis for a nutritionally sound meal. Choose fillings such as cottage cheese, tinned tuna or baked beans. Put them in the oven to give you something to look forward to while you do an hour of study.
  • Frozen chips have more vitamin C than fresh potatoes, but keep an eye on the fat content!

Tinned fish such as mackerel, salmon, sardines and tuna are good in pasta bakes, sauces or simply on toast. They are high in iron and vitamin B12 and also contain Omega-3 fatty acids which are important for circulation and a healthy immune system.


Eggs are a great source of protein and are easy and versatile to cook. Eat them scrambled on wholemeal toast or use some vegetables to make a nutritious omelette. Alternatively, boil them and add to salads or as part of a sandwich.


Lean meat is a nutritious food, which in moderate amounts can make a valuable contribution to intakes of protein, long chain fatty acids, B vitamins, vitamin D, zinc and easily absorbed iron.


Milk and milk products are important sources of protein, B vitamins such as riboflavin and B12, and minerals such as calcium, zinc and magnesium. They are available in a range of fat contents.


Yoghurts are a healthy and simple dessert. Choose a low fat option and eat alone or poured over fresh or tinned fruit, such as peaches, pears or berries.

Milk puddings

Great comfort food, canned rice pudding, tapioca and semolina are excellent sources of calcium (especially if you have run out of milk) and carbohydrates.

Canned and frozen berries

Berries such as blackberries, raspberries and blackcurrants contain powerful antioxidants that protect the body against cancer and heart disease. Canned berries in natural juice will have less sugar and calories than those in syrup. The fibre content of the fruit is the same as for fresh, but frozen is best for keeping vitamin C content.

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