How I Eat Healthy in Graduate School
Lex Be Real… in graduate school, it is very easy to be unhealthy. Limited time causes us to choose convenient food options; stress causes us to crave more unhealthy foods full of carbs and/or sugar and then you get stuck in a cycle of poor eating habits.
So, what made me want to change my unhealthy eating habits? Learning about all the diseases that can occur when one is obese and/or consuming an unhealthy diet full of carbs, fats, sugars, and salt. Hypertension (high blood pressure), type 2 diabetes, hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol) and the list goes on and on. It can be scary enough to really make someone want to change.
Aka it made me want to change my eating habits and regain the healthy eating habits I had during undergraduate school. Naturally, I went to Pinterest to try to help me find inspiration for new recipes and got sucked into a rabbit hole of hours looking at diets, meal plans, recipes, etc.
It was all so overwhelming. There’s just so much information out there. It felt like walking into a book store or library with no idea what you’re actually looking for.
On this journey, my roommate asked if I could include her in the dinners I was making, and I gladly said yes because believe it or not it’s a lot easier to cook for two people than one. Taylor Swift and Boys Like Girls were right when they said, “two is better than one.”
So, where did I begin?
I began with my favorite part: the food. I created a board on Pinterest and started saving recipes that I found by searching recipes with additional keywords: healthy, gluten free, quick, easy. I made a word document of these recipes that I liked and included how long it would take to cook, how many servings it would make, ingredients needed and how to cook it.
I saw a bunch of things about all the latest diet fads. Keto, paleo, whole30, etc. There was so much information it became hard to choose what was best. Did I consider doing the keto diet after seeing all the successful stories about weight loss in a short amount of time? You bet! But did I? No. Quick fixes only work in the short run. Long term, the weight could (and most likely would) come back.
Now I’m not saying keto diets aren’t good for you or healthy. They are, and doctors will even prescribe ketogenic diets for certain medical conditions, but I personally don’t need to be on a strict keto diet. I did however take keto recipes (and whole30 and paleo) that looked amazing and incorporated them into the weekly meal plans I was making for my roommate and me. This provided me with new ideas, healthy recipes, and the ability to happily not eat the same meals every week.
From there, I wanted a template for a weekly calendar where I could put in the meals my roommate and I would be eating. The problem is I couldn’t find any that were either free, easy to use or changeable.
The beauty of this template is that there is room under the boxes to copy and paste the ingredients needed from the Recipes word document I have. All I have to do is print out that week or write down the ingredients I need to buy to make all the meals.
Now you’re probably thinking, “How do you have all this time to plan, shop, cook and clean?” I thought the same thing. The truth is I had to make time to do it. Cooking healthy dinner for myself is important so I make time for it. So easily do people get caught up in the trap of thinking, “I don’t have time for this.” When you choose to say you don’t have time for something it becomes very easy to write off whatever it is- cooking healthy meals, working out, sleeping 8 hours, going to dinner with friends, etc. Whatever it is becomes something that’s impossible or unrealistic and then goes out of sight, out of mind.
On to the fun part… my favorite meals thus far.
Sheet pan teriyaki chicken with vegetables and rice
Place chicken and veggies on a sheet pan
Lightly brush with olive oil
Provide a light coat of teriyaki sauce to the chicken
Vegetables include any combination of broccoli, red peppers, green peppers, water chestnuts, carrots and/or baby carrots
Cook at 400 degrees F for 30-40 minutes
Chicken enchilada/burrito bowls
Can cook chicken in oven, on stove, or in a crock pot
For an enchilada bowl, I add water and enchilada sauce to the instant pot and cook it on manual for 30-40 minutes depending on how much chicken
If I’m going for a burrito bowl I cook my chicken with taco seasoning or with buffalo sauce
Toppings include beans (refried or black), cheese, avocado, sour cream, salsa, etc. added on top of rice and chicken
Chicken, green beans and potatoes
All you do is bake everything at 350 degrees F in a 9 x 13 pan so that you can cover it with foil
Chicken can be made however you want- just choose a flavor/marinade and you’re all set
Green beans can be swapped out for broccoli, cauliflower, or any other vegetable you’d like
Zucchini noodles with shrimp
I buy pre-cut zucchini noodles (a little more money but the time saved is well worth it), 1 lb shrimp, a lemon and make sure I have garlic and butter at home to use
First, I cook shrimp with 1 tbsp oil and 2 tbsp butter. Red pepper flakes (to taste), 1 tsp Italian seasoning and 4 cloves of garlic are added. Once cooked, place shrimp on a plate
In the same pan add 2 tbsp butter, juice from ½ lemon, ¼ cup of vegetable/chicken stock, and hot sauce (to taste)
Bring the sauce to a simmer while stirring for 2-3 minutes. Add in zoodles and cook for about 2-4 minutes
Add shrimp back in and serve
Since this is a new journey, stay posted for new recipes, my gluten free twist on some classics and tricks that will save you time while cooking during your busy life!