Staying Healthy on a Student’s Schedule

by | Aug 28, 2008

Students are notoriously short on time. So too are doctors, nurses, residents, professors and, for that matter, just about everyone I know. And when time is limited, the last thing we are worried about is what and when we are going to eat or hit the gym. But neglecting our health is not a winning strategy in the long-term. Here are ten tips for staying healthy year-round on your busy schedule:

  1. Shop on weekends. It is impossible to cook yourself a healthy meal if you do not have any healthy food in your house. Make it non-negotiable to make your weekend grocery and farmers’ market trip. This will ensure that you always have fresh, healthy food at home that can be prepared quickly.
  2. Stock frozen vegetables. Though frozen vegetables do not always (but sometimes do) taste as good as fresh ones, they are just as healthy and can be stored indefinitely. They are also already cut up, which means a meal can be as easy as heating a pan with olive oil, opening a package and pouring it in the pan. A sprinkle of salt, pepper and fresh herbs and you have the basis for a quick, healthy meal.
  3. Cook grains in large batches. This is one to live by. Whole grains (and legumes) take a while to cook, I admit. But prepare a large batch (on weekends), wrap individual servings in plastic wrap and store them in the freezer. To thaw run under warm water briefly to loosen and remove plastic, put the frozen grain ball on a plate and microwave, partially-covered for one minute. This produces rice almost as good as when first cooked.
  4. Roast vegetables and meats. Roasting is one of the most delicious ways to cook vegetables and meat. It takes some time but can be done in large batches with a little olive oil, herbs, salt and pepper, and stores well in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. Buying whole chickens also saves money. Put a few scoops of vegetables and chicken slices in the microwave next to your steaming pile of brown rice for a fast, delicious meal.
  5. Carry a healthy snack. You probably know how easy it is to be unexpectedly held up somewhere for hours without a proper meal, and in times like these it is impossible to break away and cook yourself dinner in the corner or hallway. Have a bag of nuts or dried/fresh fruit on you at all times to ensure you do not have to rely on the vending machine.
  6. Stock cans of soup. Canned soup is far from culinary brilliance, but it is frequently healthy. There are always reasons you cannot cook yourself a fresh dinner, but you can spare yourself a trip to the drive-thru if you have soup at home. Look for cans that have ingredients you recognize and less than ten grams of sugar. Also check the serving size.
  7. Take the stairs. Whether you have time to go to the gym or not, the stairs are a great way to get free exercise. Elevators are not always faster and stairs are not as bad as you think. For most people, the barrier to taking the stairs is more mental than physical.
  8. Subscribe to a CSA. CSA or Community-supported Agriculture is a program where a person commits to purchasing a weekly box of fresh, seasonal produce from a specific local farm. Boxes can usually be customized to the size and frequency of your needs, so you can get as much or little as you can handle. Such an arrangement ensures that you always have high-quality healthy food in the house, consume a diverse assortment of seasonal fruits and vegetables and learn to cook things you have never heard of. It is also great for the environment and community. Everyone is a winner!
  9. Carry water. Water is important, and you would be surprised at how often you mistake thirst for hunger and end up with a salty bag of chips instead of a cool glass of water. Carry a water bottle with you at all times and drink from it regularly.
  10. Get moving. The gym and stairs are not the only ways to get exercise. If you are having trouble squeezing in a workout, it is critical that you find a bunch of little ways to keep moving. Walking or biking to work is an excellent way to combat a sedentary job. You would be surprised at how little extra time and energy this takes, and it is almost certainly quicker than a trip to the gym. It is also a good idea to embrace the calls of manual labor: clean your room, wash your car, do the dishes. You need to do these things anyway, so you may as well burn some calories in the process.

This article is also available at:

http://synapse.ucsf.edu/articles/2008/August/stayinghealthy.html

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5 Responses to “Staying Healthy on a Student’s Schedule”

  1. zamley says:

    plus if you commute by bike you feel more awake when you get to work and (by burning off some daily frustrations) you’re happier when you get home.

  2. Jed Wolpaw says:

    I´ve had some fantastic meals here in Guatemala made from fresh produce carried down the mountain on the heads of the women who then sell it in the open air markets. When I get home I´m definitely joining one of those fresh produce box situations…on the condition that my favorite food blogger help me come up with recipes for all of the surprise produce that arrives at my door 🙂

  3. Anonymous says:

    Wow, great post. This advice is gold….if only we could all live our lives like this I wonder what Americans would look like. How do you suggest for us inspire unhealthy friends/family to start making changes?

  4. Darya Pino says:

    Anon:The way I see it, the best way to inspire friends is with absolutely delicious food. Cook them dinner, encourage them to go to the farmers’ market, take them to excellent, market-based restaurants.Most people do not know how good food can be. Show them that this same delicious food is the food that is best for you and people will be hooked for life.

  5. MB says:

    How about an article on CSA. Give more details, expectations, benefits, etc.

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