What is clean eating, anyway? 5 tips to get started as a student

“Clean Eating” – search the hashtag on Instagram and you’ll be hit with nearly 40 million images depicting hearty health-foods, organised meal-prep, colourful acai bowls and smoothies galore.

The movement is undeniably popular, but do we know what it really is, and how to go about cleaning up our diet?

Clean eating is about including more whole foods, fruits, vegetables, grains, pulses and healthy fats into your diet, and forgoing the processed, sugar-rich, fat-laden foods we all know to be bad for us.

For students, in particular, eating well and keeping healthy is hugely important – not only to keep your brains ticking and attention focused, but also to overcome the temptation to eat pot noodles for 3 years and not care about your diet! So, if you want to shake the stigma of student eating and clean up your diet for good, here are 5 tips to start your clean eating journey…

What a load of veg…

We all know the 5-a-day rule, but it’s alarming how many of us don’t hit the mark each day when it comes to our fruit and veg intake. Including more fruit and veg (especially leafy greens and low-starch veggies) in your diet will significantly reduce your risk of many diet-related diseases like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as balance your gut bacteria and boost your immune system.

Aim to include at least one portion of veggies into each meal, or swap your salty snacks like crisps for carrot sticks, celery and hummus instead! It’s easy to pack in a few more portions of veg – you could even try making these easy vegetable crisps!

You can make me whole (grain) again…

The cleanest grains are the ones that have been through the least processing. Think of which grains look most like their harvested state; quinoa, oats, wild rice. Whole wheat pasta and whole-grain bread should be your go-to carb sources when clean eating, as they are packed full of slow release carbohydrates and contain far less sugar than their white counterparts.

Don’t get fooled by “whole-grain” claims on labels though, look at the ingredients themselves and make sure they aren’t being paired with processed versions or too much sugar.


Meat-free Mondays…

Research suggests that cutting back on meat, especially red meat, is not only better for you, but better for the planet, too! Whilst turning vegan isn’t a requirement for clean-eating, taking one day a week where you consume less or no animal products can reduce your risk of heart disease, lower your blood pressure, and keep your weight in check. Try switching out your beef mince in your weekly Bolognese for Quorn instead, or indulge in a bean-burger if you fancy a change to chicken? You could find you enjoy these veggie versions more, and you’ll be doing yourself (and the environment) some good!

Sugar is the enemy…

Most people think that eating fat makes you fat, but that’s simply not true. SUGAR – now that’s what you need to avoid if you want to be healthier, leaner and less likely to develop diet-related illnesses! Things like fizzy drinks, fruit juices, sweets and baked goods are eaten far too regularly in a western diet, and are causing an epidemic of obesity among us!

Too much sugar spikes your insulin levels, effects your brain and concentration, make you gain weight and does nothing for your skin and hair – so ditch it! Look for foods without sugar as an ingredient, or make sure it’s listed down towards the bottom of the ingredients list, meaning it’s not one of the main ingredients.

Avoid packaged foods, and be wary of things like condiments and sauces which contain a lot of hidden sugars that you wouldn’t necessarily know are there.

coca cola

That’s salt, folks…

Similarly to sugar, too much salt (sodium) in our diets can lead to a myriad of health problems. It’s estimated that over 80% of the salt that we eat comes from packaged convenience foods and a lack of fresh cooking. Cutting back on these processed foods will dramatically improve your salt intake. Cook with fresh ingredients and use herbs, spices and flavourings to enhance your meals instead of salt. If you must include salt, use it sparingly, and opt for a coarse sea salt or pink Himalayan salt instead.

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