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Ask the experts: Healthy food for students

Q: "My daughter is in her first year at university and staying at the hostel. She doesn't like the meals, especially the evening ones, and often misses breakfast. Do you have any ideas for healthy snack meal items I can send her? Otherwise she often resorts to junk food and chocolate. There is access to a microwave but very little else. Any ideas would be appreciated."

Concerned Mum

A: Nutritionist and writer Tish Chalmers responds:

"There is a range of 'ready-made meals' available at supermarkets and these can form the basis of some healthy snacks for your daughter. When shopping for these, the best idea is to compare similar products and choose those that contain more vegetables and are lowest in saturated fat, sugar and sodium. To give a 'nutritional boost' to meals such as microwavable pasta, rice or couscous, add some of the following:

  • Canned salmon or tuna
  • Dehydrated or canned vegetables
  • Canned mixed beans
  • Nuts and seeds

The tuna, salmon and mixed beans (mashed) can also be spread onto rice wafers or crispbreads. Peanut butter (with no added salt and sugar) or Vegemite and Marmite are quick and easy spreads.

Other nutritious snack foods are:

  • Dried fruits, nuts and seeds – choose nuts and seeds that are not salted and remember, these are energy-rich and should only be eaten in moderation.
  • Fruit such as apples, oranges, mandarins and pears, or any that have a long shelf-life and will survive the post.
  • Muesli, cereal and fruit bars.
  • Porridge that can be made with water and sweetened with dried fruit.
  • Homemade baking is always an exciting treat at university and vegetable muffins, loaded with grated courgette, carrot, onion and cheese are a healthy and filling snack. Fruit-based muffins such as banana or apple and cinnamon are delicious as well."
First published: Feb 2007



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