Food

The Rocky Road to Healthy Eating

This summer, I was enrolled in full-time classes. I would be on campus several days a week from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.. As a commuter, unwilling to burden myself with more heavy things to carry, I bought pasta every day for lunch. By September, I had twelve dollars left in my bank account.

It hadn’t taken me long into first-year to realize that I often had to choose between healthy eating and cheap eating. Loaded with extracurriculars, my days spanned twelve hours; I would subsist off snacks, water, or cave in and buy a sandwich or pasta. When I first discovered food trucks, I had been delighted — finally, a filling meal for under five dollars! But I soon realized that each poutine — however cheap, hearty, and delicious — made my body feel bloated and uncomfortable for hours afterwards.

Food trucks outside Sidney Smith Hall

The only other option was to pack food, which cut into my busy schedule and was cumbersome to lug around. I also only knew three or four quick recipes, and kale salad every day of the week got boring very fast. Only this September, when faced with no more funds, did I finally resort to bringing proper lunches.

I have a big advantage in living with my parents at home; I don’t have to cook every night. This past month, I have been bringing leftovers from dinner of the night before. Initially, I had been quite picky about what I would eat. Cold food had no appeal. But microwaves are magical and easily found on campus: at Sid’s Café, Robarts’ food court, Ned’s Café, and more. Leftover pasta, fried rice, chicken, mashed potatoes, or salmon definitely did the trick. On the days when no leftovers were available, I tossed arugula or baby spinach with cherry tomatoes and bocconcini cheese balls (almost no cutting or preparation necessary) into a Tupperware, and brought a separate container of olive oil dressing, pre-prepared, to pour over when ready to eat.

Salad in Tupperware with water bottle and lemon slices

To solve my heavy backpack issue, I started carrying around another bag, usually a tote bag or gym bag, on the days I had many books to bring. It is still cumbersome, but worth the effort. This allowed me to also bring a few granola bars, and more importantly, a water bottle to stay hydrated daily. To my surprise, with water always at hand, I would drink three or four bottles a day — a huge difference from my water intake without convenient access. Cutting in fresh lemon slices in the morning also makes the taste consistently appealing.

Backpack and gym bag

I have been quite happy with my lunch routine so far this month. For the first time, I look forward to my meal without the ensuing guilt of having bit into more of my savings. To make sure that I was on the right track and to see if I could pick up more tips, I dropped in to the Healthy Habits workshop at the Hart House Reading Room this Monday.

Healthy Habits Banner

Part of the Hart House Weekly Wellness series, Healthy Habits is a nutritionist-led talk that takes place every Monday (except Thanksgiving) from noon until 1 p.m.. Each week’s session focuses on a different theme; last week’s was eating on a budget, and this week’s was nutrition for a healthy mind. The themes get decided at the workshops, based on students’ requests, but I found most of the time was taken up by unstructured questions and discussions.

I came away from Monday’s session with plenty of useful tips and guidelines: eggs, avocados, and oats are the best breakfast foods; the fastest way to waste money is to buy junk food (including food truck food); packing a quick salad as I was doing (add seeds, hard-boiled eggs, or grains for more nutrition!) did make for a great, healthy lunch. It was a casual and enlightening hour. I left the room not only knowing more but also feeling inspired to keep up my packed lunches, learn more recipes, and stay away from the cheap and easy options — even if it means spending Sunday night making salad dressings.