By: Hailey Miller, Staff Writer
As a health-conscious individual, I’ve always been passionate about fitness and nutrition. Being a full-time university student with a busy schedule, I know first-hand the challenges of setting aside time to make homemade meals that are nutritious, while staying within budget. Over the years, I’ve gained a lot of experience in fitness and nutrition, and have learned many tips along the way. Here’s a simple guide to the best way to maintain a pattern of healthy eating and exercise for university students on a budget — and a tight schedule.
Find a fitness regime that works best for you
Whether you’re new to fitness, trying out another sport, or you’re a seasoned pro, the key to successfully partaking in regular physical activity is to find something you enjoy, and to keep your workout routines varied. Everyone has different interests and abilities, and finding a fitness routine that you’re interested in will help you want to stay active and set aside a designated workout time. Try different fitness routines and see what you like the most. Each type of exercise has its own benefits, whether it be weight and resistance training, yoga or pilates, cardio-based activities like running and swimming, endurance or interval training (e.g. long-distance running and CrossFit), or a combination of all of the above. Exercise variety allows your body to work different muscle groups, improves different areas of strength, and keeps you mentally focused. Finding an adaptive routine that’s safe and effective based on your abilities is extremely important. Anyone who wants to can partake in fitness as long as they feel safe and comfortable, and have been cleared by a professional. Remember to consult your health care provider if you’re new to fitness or partaking in a different routine, and especially if you have any pre-existing medical conditions or injuries.
Some movement is better than no movement
Timing is tight, and scheduling is tough. On the days where it seems impossible to incorporate some level of fitness into your daily routine, remember that the little steps go a long way. Instead of scheduling one long workout routine, break your routine up into smaller components whenever you have time in your day. For instance, do 15 minutes of weight training here, 15 minutes of yoga there. Factor in whatever remaining time you have for simple activities, such as a walk! Even if it’s just between classes or around campus — any movement counts! Mini bouts of fitness throughout your day will help you stay focused, be more productive, and feel less exhausted from the typical grind of work, study, repeat.
Take advantage of discounted fitness classes and recreation
Many fitness classes offer free trials and discounts to newcomers who try out their services for the first time. Off-campus options such as 30-day workout sessions, hot yoga, and spin classes are just a few great options for getting the best bang for your buck. Don’t forget about on-campus recreation and fitness opportunities, and discounts on community passes for recreation within your city. Aside from this, fitness doesn’t have to cost anything — you can work out for free! Grab a workout mat, and start your own routine. YouTube is full of fitness regimes for everyone from beginners to elites. Plus, check out one of my favourites, Kaijafit, on Instagram. Moving your body outside also costs nothing. So, take a hike (as long as you’re prepared), walk your dog, run the track, or swim in the lake. Remember to work out safely to avoid injury.
Meal prep, meal prep, meal prep!
I promise that prepping meals and planning ahead will be worth your while, especially on those days where your schedule is crammed, or you’re rushing out the door and barely have time to make lunch. Meal prep doesn’t have to be complicated. Start with simple preparation such as homemade energy bars, hummus and veggies, chopped fruit, smoothie prep, salads, and bowls (with roasted vegetables, quinoa or rice, and a simple dressing or pesto, for example). As you become more adept at meal prepping — and if your fridge or freezer has the space — make double-batch recipes whenever you can, and save the leftovers for later. On that note, always save your leftovers; they’re the easiest, ready-to-go form of meal prep out there, since you have another meal for later and you didn’t even plan on it.
Make simple, nutrient-dense recipes
Who has time to follow a 10-step recipe? I sure as hell don’t. Find recipes that are easy; one-pot meals with minimal ingredients. The more nutrient-dense, the better. If you’re a kitchen lover or a seasoned chef, create your own recipes that you know are full of good ingredients and are easy to make in a bind. Incorporate the food groups, create balanced meals, and even follow the Food Guide if you need it. Some of my favourite healthy food nutritionists and bloggers to follow include The Roasted Root, Minimalist Baker, and Plantbased RD. Instagram and TikTok are full of endless simple recipes that can keep you scrolling until your next meal prep day.
Shop smart on groceries
Coupons are a budgeter’s best friend. Buying produce in-season is a good starting point, since pricing on produce and foods fluctuates depending on the time of year. Eating fresh, local produce is great, but can be expensive. When the budget is too tight for fresh foods, opt for frozen vegetables and fruits — this is the next best thing and still offers a great variety of nutrition while lowering the cost. Another option is to buy non-perishables, and these options can be healthy, too. Be a conscious shopper when it comes to the ingredients in your food, and the costs on the shelves. Keep your eye out for grocery store deals, and stock up when needed. If a certain product or food is more expensive one week, avoid buying it and substitute another food instead. Before you know it, you’ll be a grocery shopping pro!