How to eat well at college: Ditch the junk food and get cooking
The old saying “you are what you eat” is a truly sobering thought. Especially considering how many days this year I had biscuits for breakfast. Too many.I am starting second year as a film and TV student, so I have decided to give you the insider’s guide to food at college.
Food at college might inspire the mental image of a student eating beans on toast for three months straight. The sad thing is, that is what I aspired to be.
My Leaving Cert taught me how to calculate velocity and work 12-hour days. I can greet you in Chinese and yet I could not cook anything useful besides brownies until very recently.
Last August my Mum earnestly tried to tell me all the things you can do with an egg or potato. However, I was forward-thinking to independence, to freshers’ week and ditching school uniforms. I was excited. Healthy eating didn’t feature on my agenda at all.
Essentially, I was spoiled where food was concerned.
I never questioned where it came from or how it was cooked. I didn’t appreciate how much I took it for granted. Of course, this was to change when faced with the reality of a budget.
First trip to supermarket
It was on my first trip to the supermarket that I realised it might not be easy to eat well at college. I burned with the injustice. I noticed we live in an Ireland where it is cheaper to buy a pack of fruit biscuits than to get real fruit.
For a while, I tried a bland wholesome diet. It worked – for a while, but my patience dwindled. Bit by bit, junk food seemed to be a viable option. In my naivety, I thought: why have chicken when you can save money and have noodles? Gradually, standards slipped until I eventually found myself eating biscuits for breakfast.
Make no mistake, there’s nothing worse than biscuits before noon. The sweetness is sickening and confusing. It’s like having dessert at 7am. This had to stop.
It wasn’t long until my rock-star lifestyle came to a head. Too late, I realised junk food was a false economy. Although my budget had more scope for leisure, I was distant in class, nodding off on the bus and possibly anaemic.
That was the morning I cornered my “breakfast”. I brashly threw the biscuits in the bin, having triumphed over corporate greed, lies and above all: custard creams. Yes, my dignity was in pieces and my blood sugar soaring.
However, they are gone and not coming back. I was hungry, fatigued, but at least I was not defeated.
Afterwards, for the first time, I made a meal plan. It meant my budget was stricter; I couldn’t make impulse buys or live frivolously. However, the upsides were unreal. I felt revived.
Gradually, I’ve come to appreciate the importance of eating well at college. Assignments write themselves, lectures become interesting and time with friends is more enjoyable.
Burritos, noodles, pizzas – they are not a good idea. Unfortunately, healthy foods are often expensive, but if you feel you can’t eat well and enjoy college, don’t. It might mean reducing your entertainment fund but living on snacks will drag down the fun regardless.
When you familiarise yourself with seasonal vegetables and own-brand products, you’ll soon be getting a healthy balance without overspending. That, and there are lots of great recipes online.
After my own experience, I conducted a survey among random students in Dublin. It was a simple question: what did you have for breakfast? The answers ranged from nothing to chicken fillet rolls, to dry toast to porridge. This problem won’t solve itself overnight. Yes, the old saying “you are what you eat” still rings in my head. No, it doesn’t keep me awake at night.
Through experience of learning yet another lesson the hard way, they’re right: it’s true. Now excuse me while I finish my granola. Personal favourite: my recipe for an omelette
I chose an omelette for several reasons. It is versatile, cheap and healthy and you can serve it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It is the perfect student meal.
It has lot s of potential for variation and can be cooked with whatever you have in the fridge.
You will need:
A knob of butter
A few slices of cheese
Half an onion (diced)
Pinch of salt
Step 1: Crack the eggs into a bowl and beat them with a fork.
Step 2: Melt the butter in the frying pan and let it sizzle. Pour your mixture in to the pan and tilt so you get equal coverage. Ease it around the edges with your spatula.
Step 3: Now that your omelette is taking shape, it is time to add your filling. I have suggested cheese and onion – but you can put whatever you have into yours. It is fun to get creative and experiment with whatever you have in the fridge.
Personally, I like using raw onion which gives a strong flavour. If you would rather cooked onion, fry them over a high heat for a few minutes first.
Step 4: All going well, you can use your spatula to turn the omelette in half and tip it on to a plate. It might wind up as scrambled eggs the first time, but either way – congratulations on making your omelette!
Good sites for useful recipes and info: