By Nisha Takhar | 4th Year Dietetics
Nisha’s passion for food, science, and helping others sparked her interest in dietetics. She is interested in exploring the social and personal connections we create with each of our food choices. Using social media as an engagement tool, Nisha hopes to facilitate access to evidence-based and trustworthy nutrition information for all.

As a student, it may seem daunting to cook for yourself. Purchasing meals when you are out on the go is an easier option, but there are many benefits to cooking at home that make it worth the added effort.

Preparing your own food is cheaper compared to eating out, can help you build essential food skills and is associated with a whole host of physical and mental health benefits. Ready to get cooking? Here are some top tips to get you started:

1. Shop Smart.

Knowing what to buy is a huge part of being a successful home cook. Buying quick-to-prepare, versatile ingredients, like frozen produce, quick cooking whole grains (e.g. quinoa) and canned legumes, is a fantastic life hack to help you make balanced meals fast. Plus, it’s easy to make large batches to keep for lunch throughout the week or to share with friends. Here are some ideas for your grocery list.

2. Meal Prep.

Prioritizing meal prep will save you time during the week. Set aside an hour or two every week to wash, cut, and pre-cook ingredients for quick grab-and-go snacks or meals in minutes. One of my personal favourite items to prep is overnight oats. I fill up a big container with a mix of oats and spices, so that all I have left to do is toss the dry ingredients into a jar with some milk and my favourite toppings and refrigerate overnight. This way, I can wake up to a nutritious breakfast the next morning. Meal prepping is also a great time to take a mental health break. Take care of yourself – listen to your favourite music, podcast or audiobook while cooking and give yourself a chance to relax. This will help you be more productive when you get back to the school work. Here are 11 prep day ideas to get you started.

3. Snacks, snacks, snacks.

Student life can get hectic, so it’s important to make sure you have healthy snacks on hand to keep you fueled throughout the day. Here’s a list of some of my favourite healthy, on-the-go snacks.

4. Social Suppers.

If you live with roommates, cooking and eating together is a great way to connect. Whether you’re cooking a meal from scratch or simply sprucing up your weekly meal prep, spending meal times with others and having meaningful conversations, without distractions or devices, will contribute to positive mental health outcomes. Read more about the benefits of shared meals here.

Getting started is the toughest part of any new habit, so remember to focus on progress rather than perfection. Every small step you take to incorporate one or more of these tips into your routine will help improve your overall health and wellbeing. Get started today so you can master some new food skills before September! You might be surprised at how simple it can be.

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