Healthy eating habits/Healthy snack ideas on a University student's budget

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The following article provides an easy guide and some simple snack ideas for how to balance healthy eating on a University students budget.

Healthy snack idea

What is healthy eating?

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The diet we follow is one of the key players in how we look and feel every day, as well as our chance of developing things like obesity, heart disease, diabetes and some cancers[1]. The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating[2] has gone through thousands of evidence-based resources to figure out what a healthy diet is, with the following five food groups as a final product.

Variety of vegetables bursting with nutrients.
Assortment of fruits full of antioxidants (the good guys).
A+ fuel for your body- wholegrains.

The 5 food groups

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A healthy diet involves foods from each of the 5 food groups (plus 'sometimes' foods when you're feeling cheeky) listed below.

1. Vegetables

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Vegetables are a great source of nutrients, and we should be eating lots of them every day. Whether they be fresh, frozen, cooked or tinned, getting a wide variety of a rainbow of vegetables is important to feel and look your best. Legumes, such as chickpeas and beans, should also be eaten often.

A cheap, easy-to-prepare source of protein.

2. Fruit

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Fruit are another food group where a variety of colours are key, and can be eaten fresh, frozen, cooked, tinned, or as juice (with no added sugar). Packed full of fibre and antioxidants (the good guys), fruits can be a delicious burst of healthy energy.

Milk: Rich in vitamins and minerals.

3. Grains

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Grain (cereal) foods are a huge source of energy, so it's important to use your brain when choosing which ones to eat. Wholegrain and/or high fibre varieties of cereals provide more fibre, vitamins and minerals, and can be found as breads, cereals, rice, and pasta varieties, amongst others.

'Sometimes' foods for when you're feeling cheeky.

4. Protein

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Choosing a variety of lean red meats and poultry (like chicken or turkey), fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, and legumes/beans, is a super nutritious way to fuel your body to tackle the day. The AGHE[2] recommend trimming fat from meat and skin from poultry before cooking, as well as stir frying or grilling your meats, as opposed to frying or roasting in fat/oil, to reduce fat intake.

5. Dairy and dairy alternatives

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Milk, cheese and yoghurt are excellent sources of vitamins and minerals key to good health. The AGHE[2] recommend choosing reduced-fat options when you can. Milk can be fresh, powdered, evaporated or UHT long life.

'Sometimes' Foods

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These are the foods that don't fit into the above groups, because they're not needed to be healthy. They can be too high in energy, as well as fats, sugars, salt and/or alcohol, which can increase your risk of things such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers[3]. This group includes choices such as desserts, pastries, processed meats like salami, potato chips and alcohol.

And don't forget to drink plenty of water!

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Suggested number of serves

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According to the AGHE[4], 19-50 year old adults should follow the below guide-

Food group Number of serves (Male) Number of serves (Female)
Vegetables 6 5
Fruit 2 2
Grains 6 6
Protein 3 2.5
Dairy and dairy alternatives 3.5 2.5
'Somtimes' foods 0 - 3 0 - 2.5

How to snack on a budget?

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Where can I save?

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Supermarket Farmers market You save!
1 avocado $2.00 $1.00 $1.00
250g raspberries $7.98 $4.00 $3.98
1 serve lean beef mince (1/2 cup) $1.54 $0.55 $0.99
1 serve chicken breast fillet skin off (80g) $2.50 $0.80 $1.70
Total $7.69
Store bought Home-made You save!
100g hummus $2.15 $0.34 $1.81
1 serve yoghurt + muesli $6.50 $1.26 $5.25
1 serve chicken stirfry $15.50 $2.75 $12.75
Total $19.81
Fresh Frozen You save!
250g raspberries $4.00 $0.25 $3.75

Reference supermarket/store bought/frozen foods found on Coles Online[5]

Backpack-friendly snack ideas

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  • Muesli bar slice. Great to make a big batch of and freeze in individual serves to take with you on the go.
  • Carrot + celery + dip snack pack
  • Popcorn as an alternative to potato crisps.
  • A handful of nuts are a great food to snack on between meals to ward off those in between meals hunger pangs.

Handy tips

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  • See if your uni has any cafe's that offer a discount for BYO Keep Cup. Helping the environment and your wallet.
  • Love a nice hot meal? Most universities provide microwaves. Invest in a good container and bring last nights leftovers for a free, hot meal. (Bonus- Tuppaware offers lifetime warranties!)
  • Water water water! Invest once off in a reusable bottle and save re-purchasing disposable bottles (that end up rolling around on the floor of your car) when thirst strikes, as well as warding off dehydration masked as hunger.
  • Bring your backpack-friendly snack ideas to uni with you to keep you full between meals!
  • And of course... Mason jars! Not only do they look adorable, but they provide a leak-proof lid for any filling (salads, smoothies, deconstructed dinners... The list is endless!)

Additional Resources

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  1. National Healthy and Medical Research Council (2010). Australian dietary guidelines 1-5. Retrieved October 15, 2014, from .
  2. a b c National Healthy and Medical Research Council (2010). About the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. Retrieved October 15, 2014, from .
  3. National Healthy and Medical Research Council (2010). Discretionary food and drink choices. Retrieved October 15, 2014, from .
  4. National Healthy and Medical Research Council (2010). Recommended number of serves for adults. Retrieved October 15, 2014, from .
  5. Coles Supermarket (2014). Coles Online. Retrieved October 15, 2014, from .