It’s that time of year again when droves of students are fleeing the nest for the first time and embarking on lots of adventures with new and exciting challenges.

Unfortunately fending for themselves at uni and possibly having to cook for the first time can be a pretty daunting prospect for both students and their parents.

Here are a few tips to smooth the process and ensure that they are getting at least some nutrients to feed their brains and stomachs……


Proteins are the building blocks of life and are a part of every cell in the body.  Protein is needed for the growth and repair of tissues and is also a fuel for energy production.

Meat, fish and chicken can be pricey although a little can go a long way if you are savvy.  Encourage students to look for the cheaper cuts of meat including stewing steak and mince.  Chicken thighs and legs are much cheaper than breast meat and a whole chicken even better value (if you’re clever this can stretch to 2-3 meals).

Eggs are great for protein, B vitamins and reasonably cheap and incredibly versatile.  Eggs for breakfast will keep you feeling full until lunch and are quick to prepare.

Introduce students to the delights of beans and lentils and I’m not just talking baked beans!  Legumes are a good source of protein, are filling, full of fibre and provide a slow-burning source of energy.  They are cheap and can be used to bulk out meat and chicken dishes.  You can get them dried (the cheapest option – most will need soaking overnight) or in cans which may be more convenient and are still good value.  Mash them up to make a ‘hummous’ or they can be added to salads and sauces too.

Quinoa is a great source of protein and is cheap too.  You can find in supermarkets and it can be used to replace rice in a dish or turned into delicious salads.

Nuts and seeds are good sources of protein and beneficial oils such as omega 3 and 6 and great for snacking on.  Always buy raw rather than salted or roasted.  Check that your room mates have no allergies first.


Carbohydrate is needed to give you the energy for particularly the brain.  It provides energy for immediate use and also stores extra in your muscles.  Low GI or slow release carbohydrates (wholemeal bread, brown rice, porridge) can help to improve endurance and prevent fatigue.

However, choose your carbs carefully.  White, processed, refined carbs should be avoided if at all possible.  Encourage them to choose wholemeal breads, and wholewheat forms of pasta or noodles.  Brown rice is more nutritious and filling than white rice.

Vitamins and minerals

Although vitamins and minerals do not directly provide energy they are needed for growth, health and general well being.  They are an essential part of enzymes that are needed for energy production, to help our muscles work properly and are needed to help the body’s ability to grow and repair itself.

Vegetables and fruits are carbs too but how many of these make it into the average student’s shopping trolley is a moot point.  All fruit and veg a good source of fibre and nutrients including vitamins and minerals which protect the immune system.  Markets are great places to fill up on cheap fruit and veg which can be cooked, eaten raw for snacks and added to main meals.

Some other ideas:

An all-purpose multivitamin and mineral can be a great way to guard against any shortfall in the diet and boost immunity.  If you source one that includes some ‘green foods’ then that will be even more beneficial.  Many are available in a one-a-day although remembering to take them is another matter…….

I would also advise an omega 3 fish oil (provided no allergies are present).  Omega 3 is extremely beneficial for brain health and lots of research has shown it to be useful for memory and concentration.

Finally, I suggest a trip to the supermarket to familiarise students with the sort of options that are available to them in terms of cost and a few practice cooking sessions at home before they go will pay dividends later.

Once you know how to make a good tomato sauce from scratch (so much cheaper and nutritious that one out of a jar) and can knock up an omelette, the possibilities are endless!