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The Student Life: The Impact of the Pandemic on Healthy Eating

Updated: Jan 30, 2023

Student life is busy, stressful, and infamous for being fueled by junk food and coffee. Now, in the context of COVID-19, there are new hurdles to eating a healthy diet. Online learning makes it harder than ever to avoid snacking all day and adapting to COVID-19 measures at school means finding new strategies for lunch and study breaks. But, this change in routine could be an opportunity to create some healthier habits. Adjust to this new reality by planning, creating structure, and making it easy to eat well.

5 tips to eat healthy in the student life during COVID-19:

1. Stock up on healthy snacks

Whether you are studying at home or at school, having healthy snacks on hand will help you make healthier choices when it’s time for a study break. Help yourself stick to a healthy diet by planning a healthy grocery list, and skipping the processed, packaged snacks and desserts. If you don’t have it on hand, you won’t be tempted to reach for the cookies or chips when you’re studying from home, or when you’re looking for something quick to stash in your bag for school. Instead, opt for nuts, healthy trail mix, veggies, and dip, or fruit and nut butter. Keep washed, chopped veggies stored in the fridge so they are ready to grab and go.

2. Get cooking

Cooking is good for your health and for your wallet’s health. Cooking from scratch allows you to decide the quantity and quality of food you consume, helps to reduce your food budget, and protects your health by avoiding restaurant and cafeteria crowds. You can make multiple servings with a few ingredients, compared to spending twice the price on a one-time restaurant meal. Start with a few simple recipes and aim to try a new recipe at least once a month to add to your repertoire.

3. Take breaks

If you are doing online learning, creating structure is key to avoiding endless snacking. Plan designated breaks and lunchtimes and avoid taking food to your desk. Remember that taking the time to stop and enjoy your food is at the heart of mindful eating. It is good for your mental and physical health to set aside time to eat, get some fresh air, and chat with a friend or study buddy. Have easy, healthy lunch options on hand by making extra portions at dinner for the next day, and freezing leftovers in individual portions.

4. Do lunch differently

If you are looking to avoid crowded areas at school, you may need to adapt your lunch routine. Avoid restaurants and cafeterias by packing a lunch that you can eat anywhere, no microwave required. Use a thermos for keeping meals warm until lunch or bring a cold pack to keep your refrigerated items chilled. Make it easy for yourself by making thermos and cold pack-friendly meals in big batches so you are set for the week. Soups, chilis, stews, and curries are great warm options. Meal salads are a great chilled option and can be made in big batches, just store the dressing on the side to keep it fresh.

5. Eat together, apart

Social distancing can be hard on morale. If you are not getting together with friends for dinner as much, try a virtual dinner date with a friend or a group of friends. Agree on making the same recipe, and video chat as you cook. When dinner is ready, sit down together and enjoy the same meal, each from your own table.

Shifting into the school year, this is the time to create habits that ensure you eat well every day. After all, a healthy diet promotes a strong immune system, contributes to mental health, and will help you feel and perform your best. For more tips on how to eat well in the student life, contact your registered dietitian today.

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