“Eat your veggies!” Does it sound familiar to anyone? Your parents telling you this while sitting on the kitchen table for dinner?” It does to me.
When I moved to Dublin I realized how hard it is to keep a healthy diet in this city, especially when you are a student. Every corner there is a pizza shop or a burger place offering you a “student deal” accompanied by french fries and a fizzy drink.
A student’s motto is “the quicker and cheaper the better”. It’s easy to make more unhealthy choices when you have low-income, don’t make time to cook, it is not always inspired and, especially if you’re a student. Even health-conscious students would be tempted to buy the “quick-pick- me ups” and comfort foods.
I came to the conclusion that if I kept with my steady diet of pizza and cheeseburgers I would end up putting some undesirable weight, having diabetes or something worse. Poor eating can also lead to lower grades, an increase of fatigue and a higher risk of depression. Therefore, after having quickly gained some extra pounds in only a few months, I felt it was the right moment to take action and change my old patterns. The contrasting eating habits that I had back in my home country and after moving out were enough to know how important it is for students to know how and what to cook to stay healthy. Luckily, I learned the lesson before was too late!
I’ve lived in Dublin long enough to know what the best options for students out there are. Trust me, if you follow these 5 tips below to help you to go into the well eating game without spending too much, you will understand that healthy eating doesn’t necessarily have to be pricey like many people think. Hope it helps you to survive during your study period in Dublin.
1. Do a Shopping List Before Heading to the Grocery Shop
Needless to say that when you are living on your own for the first time, the supermarket is not a very familiar place. In the beginning, I used to do my groceries just at the end of the day, when my stomach was already rumbling, and, believe me, it is not a very wise decision.
I wouldn’t bring a shopping list with me either, therefore, I never had any idea of what to buy and from where to start. Since I was always starving when doing my groceries, I tended to make more unhealthy decisions, buy the easy options on the shelves, such as pre-made food, frozen stuff, noodles, chips, candies and so on. Everybody is tired to know that this type of food often contains way more than the recommended amount of added sugar, sodium, saturated fats, calories, and refined grains.
If I had done a grocery list in that time, this is what it would look like:
It’s very important to ensure that you are fed, with your stomach full and have got your shopping list with you before heading to the grocery store.
If you are a forgetful person like me, who realizes that you forgot the shopping list at home only when you are already in the shop or have to run out to the store again because you forgot to buy something, then a grocery shopping list app is the best solution for your problems. Bring is my favourite one so far, you can find it here on Google Play or IOS Store. One advantage of it is that you can always add things to your list at any time, anywhere and enable other people to edit them too by sharing the list. On the other hand, if your phone runs out of battery, your memory will become your best friend. That’s why I have downloaded Bring on my phone and another one on my smartwatch just to make sure I always have it with me.
2. Know Where to Buy Your Groceries
It is a good idea to find out more about the local supermarkets so as you can be more familiar with the local products and compare prices and quality. The main supermarkets in Dublin or Ireland are Tesco, Dunnes Stores, Lidl, Aldi, and SuperValu. Supervalu is in the premium category, this implies that they offer high-quality products and cost a bit more than the others. In case you are looking for a ready to go food, the shop has a great Deli service, from baked chicken, sandwiches to salads. It’s also a good option for vegan or vegetarian people since it has a big range of non-animal based and other more natural goodies.
Dunnes Stores, another Irish grocery retail chain, is a bit cheaper than SuperValu and with a greater variety of products, they promise to offer good quality food for a cheaper price. When you have to study till late and don’t have time to cook, Dunnes has a big selection of ready-to-cook meals such as soups, Asian dishes, pork or chicken accompanied with veggies, which tastes delicious, are not that unhealthy and are inexpensive too.
The German discount supermarkets are also popular in Ireland! I particularly find Lidl and Aldi a great place to buy your basics, such as fruits, vegetables, meat, milk, cheese, etc. Everything is incredibly cheap and of reasonable quality.
Tesco shop is where you can find both cheap and premium. If you think of doing your online shopping, the British chain also has an online store and home delivery! It a convenient service to use when you need to do a bigger grocery or when your house is not close to any facility. Not forgetting to mention that there are no checkout queues to worry about.
Last but not least, make sure to keep an eye out for deals! Sometimes your local grocery shops might surprise you offering great vegetables and fruits for a very affordable price.
3. Meal Planning and Preparing
Preparing your food in advance can make you less likely to order takeaways or buy easy ready-made meals because you’ll always have them ready to go with you. In addition to it, it saves money, time, reduces waste and helps you reach your nutritious goals.
The first step is to pick up a day of the week that works best for you to prepare your meals for the week ahead. You can prepare your breakfast, lunch, and snacks for the whole week, It all depends on your routine and how inspired you feel. Start off by making a plan, choose the meals you want to eat the entire week and select the ingredients you need to buy at the shop. Avoid picking up only one meal for the rest of the week, this lack of variety will not provide your body with enough nutrients. You can create a week menu to guide you on this process, for example, Monday can be pasta salad; Tuesday could be fish and veggies and so forth. You’ll be surprised how much time and money you can save by doing it.
Now it’s time to put the plan into action! Keep it simple at the beginning, use recipes you know as easy, healthy and tasty and don’t forget to have fun and reward yourself when preparing it as well. To make it even more fun, put some music on to inspire you while cooking, invite friends over to your Student Accommodation in Dublin to try your dishes. Play with your food, be confident and appreciate the eating part too.
When you start getting sick of your dishes, you can always look for new ideas online or make watching cookery shows on your free time a habit. There are many interesting TV programs out there, such as “come dine with me”, “Saturday Kitchen”, ” Masterchef”, etc. If you don’t enjoy cooking, you will definitely discover the chef in you while watching them! You’ve gotta learn to cook to survive in the Emerald Island.
The next step is to separate your meals into grab-and-go portions to be refrigerated or frozen and eaten in the next week. You can use plastic food containers for that, buy at least 2 food containers for each day of the week if you need and plastic bags for snacks. Food containers can be easily found in Dublin for cheap at Dealz, EuroGiant or Flying Tiger. Don’t forget to write the dates on the top so you know when it goes off. Refrigerated meals can last for 3 to 4 days, while frozen can last up to 3 to 6 months, depending on the food.
4. Bring your Own Packed Lunch to College
You might be thinking this is too childish, people will make fun of you. Then ask yourself, is it foolish to spend more money on commercially prepared food when you can bring better quality food from home for less money? Food served in colleges – when there is a canteen – are not always healthy, they tend to be less than desirable and cost you more than making your own at home.
Bringing your own meal is with no doubt the best way to spend less, avoid eating fast food, have healthier meals, smaller portions and know exactly what you are eating. In addition to that, it can also guarantee you have something you like, avoiding any undesirable surprise with the weird-looking of the food served at the canteen.
When packing up your food to college, ensure to have a healthy meal, very rich in vegetables and protein. Pack healthy snacks to eat during the small breaks, such as fruits, nuts, natural yogurt, peanut butter, dark chocolates, hard-boiled eggs, carrots, cucumbers, hummus, guacamole, etc.
I have already mentioned above the places to find food containers in Dublin, or if you wish to have some salad sometimes, buy a salad container, they are handy to bring the dressing and keep your salad fresher for longer. You can find it at any Flying Tiger in Dublin:
5. Choose healthy Food when Eating Out
Students can easily fall into those unhealthy options when eating out because they tend to be cheaper and faster. Going to a restaurant shouldn’t be an excuse to eat junk food.
There are numerous healthy places to eat in Dublin! The good news is that they do not only offer great food as well as many of them are cheap and have students deal too!
Chopped is known for being the new fast food model for being fast, cheap and healthy too! It is that type of place where you can eat as much as you want and never feel guilty. They have a huge choice of salad, meat, nuts, seeds, vegetables and soups which are surprisingly tasty and healthy too. The food is chopped in front of you to take away or eat in, and it costs about €8.
Another popular place to go in Dublin city is the vegetarian restaurant Cornucopia. I usually go there for dinner on Friday night, their lasagna is gorgeous! What I like about this restaurant is that it has a cozy atmosphere and it serves a great range of delicious gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan-friendly food. Cornucopia has a big variety of salads, soups, main courses, fresh juices, etc. If you show them your student card, you get a 10% discount!
Fallon & Byrne is also a fantastic find in Dublin! The first time I went there was on a Friday evening, and it was just because most of the restaurants were closed or completely full in the city center around that time. Then I remembered that a friend of mine had told me about the great Deli food she had at Fallon & Byner, so I decided to stop by and give it a try without expecting too much. I was surprised by the many options they had in the hot deli, like quiche lorraine, curry, salmon and hake burger, beef lasagna, etc. All served with your choice of salad side for only €10,20. The food was incredibly tasty and definitely a great value for money!
I don’t think I’d ever seen so many Mexican restaurants per square meters in my life like in Dublin, I even thought I had landed in Mexico by accident! Mexican food in Dublin don’t only taste good, it can also be cheaper and healthier than many other options in the city. Most dishes are rich in avocado, beans, tomatoes, meat, vegetables, coriander, and lime. It will provide you all the necessary proteins, minerals and vitamins to your body.
There are three Mexican places in Dublin which are my favorite: Tolteca, Burritos & Blues and Boojum. They all have incredibly tasty burritos and offer student deals, you can get a burrito and a soft drink for no more than €8.
When it comes to deciding what to eat, it can be easier than you might think to make wise and healthy choices. Practicing exercise should also become part of your routine.“I don’t have time” is not a valid excuse!
I hope these tips have opened your eyes up and encouraged you to have more determination to start your semester in Dublin with a healthy lifestyle!
Turn every day into a healthy day and don’t forget to enjoy it.