Welcome back to campus! As we kick off a new term, we’re not just diving into lectures and assignments – we’re also delving into the realm of food choices. Ever wondered what truly shapes our eating habits? Our practical needs, such as seeking convenient and budget-friendly options, play a significant role in our dietary decisions.  At the same time, our emotional connections to food – whether for comfort, celebration, or connection – help define our relationship with what we eat. Every meal is an opportunity to nourish our bodies and nurture our well-being. 

With this perspective in mind, let’s explore why lean red meat can be included as part of a healthy balanced diet, especially as we navigate the dynamic landscape of university life.

Understanding How Your Food Choices Take Shape

Imagine this scenario: you’re on campus, managing coursework, socials, and all the other exciting elements of student life. Naturally, you’re seeking food that’s not only easy to grab but also affordable and satisfying. This is where practicality comes into play. Access to nearby shops and supermarkets, particularly if you don’t have a car, can significantly influence what ends up on your plate. And let’s not forget the ongoing challenge of sticking to a tight budget – a skill we all need to master! 

Where possible try to shop around. Foods from local sellers such as greengrocers, butchers, fishmongers, markets or specialist food shops like Asian stores might be more cost effective. Check the supermarket world food aisle as well, as you may find some items cheaper here like spices and sauces.

The Nutritional Benefits of Lean Red Meat

Your food is more than its shape, colour and price. Your food has an important role to play in helping keep you healthy. And it’s not just physical health we’re talking about here, it’s also great for general wellbeing and things like focus and concentration, vital if you’re studying.

So, let’s talk about the nutritional jackpot that is lean red meat – the likes of beef, lamb and pork. These options are not just rich in protein but also provide essential vitamins and minerals like iron, high-quality protein, zinc and vitamin B12.  Nutrients which contribute to overall good health and wellbeing when eaten as part of a healthy and varied diet – something that won’t just pay off now but in later life too.

Balancing Budgets with Nutrition

Now, let’s tackle the age-old student challenge: budgeting. Good news – you can keep lean red meat on your menu without breaking the bank. Opt for more affordable cuts such as pork shoulder steaks (really affordable and less well known than other cuts) and remember that batch cooking is an option with lean meat – it freezes brilliantly and maintains its flavour when stored and prepared correctly. You can also bulk up your meat dishes with extra veggies, beans and pulses to boost the fibre and make it go that bit further. One pot dishes such as pasta bakes, tray bakes, curries and casseroles take little time to prepare. You may also want to invest in a slow cooker, they are not too expensive to buy and can save on energy bills in the long run.

Making Sustainable Choices

Sustainability is a buzzword for a reason, but what does it really mean for your plate? Locally sourced and responsibly raised meat can actually fit into the sustainability puzzle. We know British livestock production, which includes beef, pork, lamb and dairy, is one of the most sustainable in the world – so ensure you read the label carefully and assess where your meat is coming from.

Food waste is another important issue to consider for both your budget and the environment. In fact, recent research from AHDB shows that one in five (20%) UK shoppers agree they often waste items like milk as don’t use it up in time. To avoid food waste, only buy the items that you need and try to choose foods with the longest ‘use-by’ date if you are not sure when you will use them. Also, get into the habit of checking what you have in the fridge and freezer before going shopping, and aim to use foods that are approaching their ‘use-by’ date first, especially meat and fish, milk and other dairy products.

Team Up for Delicious Adventures

Dealing with limited food options on campus? Here’s an idea: team up with your friends! Collaborative shopping and cooking not only ease the load but also foster a sense of community. Plus, it’s a chance to experiment with recipes and maybe even uncover your hidden culinary talents. You may find you learn a lot about different foods and cultures as well. Make it fun by have themed nights together such as Saturday night “fakeaway,” cooking up dishes such as beef fajitas, chilli nachos or sweet and sour pork noodles

University as a Hub of Knowledge

Universities are not just about lectures and assignments – they’re also a treasure trove of knowledge, including about nutrition. Many universities provide healthy eating and wellbeing support on their student websites – and attend any workshops and seminars to gain insights into budget-friendly meal planning – a life skill that will serve you well beyond your university years. And why not follow some inspirational chefs and experts for inspiration, like Tasty – Food videos and recipes or Mob — Homepage

Balancing Act for Busy Days

We get it – life can get hectic. But imagine this: preparing meals in advance, even in shared kitchens, can be a game-changer. Work out exactly what you need to buy, make a shopping list and stick to it! You can reduce the temptation to buy foods you don’t need by planning your meals at the end of the week for the week ahead. 

When buying meat, choose the right pack size for your needs. Think about whether you’ll get through the whole pack before the use by date and get creative with some recipes – maybe making a couple of dishes from one pack.  Beef mince is the foundation of so many staple dishes and offers so much more than just spaghetti Bolognese and cottage pie! Need more inspiration? Check out Recipe Inspiration and Cooking Tips | Simply Beef & Lamb | Simply Beef & Lamb (simplybeefandlamb.co.uk) and Recipes and Information to Inspire the Nation | Love Pork for recipes and more.

Making Informed Choices

We know that understanding the reasons for incorporating lean meat into your diet can lead to well-informed decisions. From being a source of essential nutrients to its contribution in a healthy and sustainable diet, lean red meat offers many advantages. By visiting the NHS Eat Well Guide, you can gain a comprehensive understanding of balanced nutrition. Additionally, check out Home – We Eat Balanced for inspiration, recipes and much more.Remember, making mindful decisions about your diet can enhance not only your university experience but also your overall well-being.

Here’s to a term of healthy and mouthwatering adventures, backed by practical wisdom and nutritious choices!

Written by: Kate Arthur – Lead nutritionist at AHDB