A Student’s Guide to Healthy Eating

Do you ever say any of these things?

  • “I have an early class so I’ll just skip breakfast for today.”
  • “Don’t worry, I’m eating vegetables. There were some on that frozen pizza.”
  • “I should be fine eating cup noodles for three meals in a row. I only do this during exam season anyways.”

If you do, it might be time to start reevaluating your dietary habits.

Now trust me, I know how hard it can be to eat a well-balanced meal as a busy student. Tight budgets, hectic schedules and a lack of cooking supplies all get in the way of healthy eating.

I’m going to help you get over these hurdles. By the end of this guide, you’ll have a general sense of places to get food around campus, easy meals you can make, and simple rules to lead a healthier life.

Eating Well with a Meal Plan

Getting a meal plan may just be right the option for you, if you can’t be bothered to cook and you’re looking for a fast and convenient way of getting food. Additionally, a meal plan may be mandatory for those of you living on residence. Ryerson has several meal plan options available, including ones which give you all-you-care-to-eat access to certain dining halls.

Be aware that since a meal plan can grant you quick access to a wide variety of choices, it can be tempting for you to load up on fried and sugary foods. For this reason, I recommend that you devise a sort of “meal game plan” before entering the dining hall. Ask yourself questions like if you want to head to the salad bar or the soup station today. Whatever you choose to do, just make sure you go in with a plan and you stick to it. Here are some tips for grabbing food in the dining hall:

  • Opt for grilled chicken instead of processed meats.
  • Skip pastries and desserts. Choose fruit and yogurt to satisfy your cravings instead.
  • Add extra vegetables from the salad bar to sandwiches and wraps to make them more filling.
  • Go for oatmeal instead of the cereals found in the self-serve dispensers. If you wish to sweeten the oatmeal, you can do so with berries and honey.
  • Focus on eating in the dining hall, not socializing. Lingering can cause you to eat more than you need to or cause you to neglect your meal.

Preparing Your Own Food

So maybe a meal plan just isn’t for you. Which is fine because there are several advantages to getting your own food, including generally being more cost-effective. And by getting your own food, I mean making it in a kitchen. And I do suggest learning how to cook if you don’t know how to already and you don’t have anyone that can cook for you. Eating out for every meal gets expensive very quickly and I don’t think I need to talk about why a fast food only diet is a bad idea.

First things first, I’d recommend buying non-perishable items in bulk. Grains like brown rice and oatmeal not only have a long-shelf life, but they can also be used in countless ways meaning that they both literally and figuratively won’t go stale.

If you’re looking for a place to get groceries, participating Metro stores (such as the one right by campus at 89 Gould St) offer students a 10% discount on certain days of the week. All you need to do is show your Ryerson OneCard at the cash register.

A great place to get affordable fresh produce is at the Good Food Market. The market runs on the first Wednesday of every month from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Ryerson Student Centre.

If you find yourself struggling to access food due to financial obligations, then the Good Food Centre operated by Ryerson Students’ Union may also be worth checking out.

Meal Ideas

To help give everyone a clearer picture of what a healthy day of eating can look like for a student, I am sharing with you all meals that I regularly eat. Keep in mind that I engage in plenty of physical activity and that I try to consume 3300 kcal a day. I also don’t eat dairy nor do I eat pork. Feel free to make changes to these meals according to your own dietary needs.

Breakfast

A bowl of muesli and a plate of eggs and bananas.

Fried eggs, banana and muesli with almond milk.

Even if you wake up in the afternoon, you should always kick-start your day with a meal that can give you lasting energy. I always go for eggs because they are high in protein, some fruit, and whole grain cereals or oatmeal. It’s always a good idea to have on-the-go breakfast items available if you’re in a rush such as nuts, apples and yogurt cups.

Lunch

A bowl of soba noodles.

Soba noodles with lemon herb chicken, sweet potato, mushrooms, beetroot and edamame. Topped with Asian sesame sauce, cashews and pumpkin seeds.

I actually tend to not pack a lunch because there’s usually not much room in my backpack. When I buy lunch, I like going to places where I can see and pick exactly what ingredients I want in my meal. Pictured above is a bowl that I got at the Hub Café right on campus for less than $9. Basil Box, which is located right next to the Student Learning Centre, also offers a very customizable meal. They even give 10% discounts to Ryerson students if you show your OneCard.

Snack

Fish on rice cakes.

Rice cakes topped with baby spinach, avocado, canned mackerel and chili flakes.

Of course I can’t forget about healthy snacking. Last year I discovered how amazingly rice cakes pair with just about anything. My favourite post-workout snack is a protein shake and rice cakes topped with canned fish and avocado. If you want simpler snack ideas then consider fruit salad, hummus, celery sticks or trail mix.

Dinner

Turkey kofta, Moroccan mint rice and salad.

Turkey kofta, Moroccan mint rice and salad.

The dinner you see above is a lot easier to make than it looks. I spent all of last year living in a studio apartment without a kitchen so I got pretty creative with what I could make using only an electric cooktop and a rice cooker. Pro-tip: much of the time I used the same grains and proteins to make several meals, but I was able to make each meal taste wildly different just by changing the spices used.

Afterthoughts

There’s really no alternative to a well-balanced diet. The Student Health & Wellness website outlines that healthy eating promotes consistent energy levels throughout the day, an improved ability to focus, and a stronger immune system. With all that being said, eating smart is still only one part of the equation. Adequate amounts of physical activity and rest are crucial to healthy living. Take care of yourselves physically and see just how much you can maximize your potential.

Stay healthy!

⁠— Jeremy

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