Over the years in Malta and all over the world there has been an increase in the availability of unhealthy fast-food chains and highly processed convenience foods in supermarkets / groceries.
Such foods are usually cheap but rich in trans saturated fats, salt, sugar, artificial preservatives and lack the necessary nutrients required for the optimal functioning of the human body.
The most recent statistics by Eurostat have shown that only 51% of the Maltese population consume vegetables on a daily basis. Moreover, a study carried out by the Department of Food Sciences and Nutrition has found that University of Malta students are consuming less fruit, vegetables, legumes and fish and are eating more meat, thus reverting to a more western diet.
As a student it can be challenging to create quick nutritious meals which are also cost effective, however with some knowledge, planning and preparation, it’s possible to do so.
It’s important to remember that the food you eat also impacts your mood, memory, concentration and energy levels.
This will therefore automatically impact your academic performance. The following are seven tips to create budget-friendly nutritious plant-based meals.
Choose seasonal and local produce preferably purchased from a farmer’s market.
Ask the seller about the produce when food shopping, for example in Malta local strawberries are usually found between December and June.
Include tubers in meals i.e., potatoes / sweet potatoes, and use cooking methods such as baking and roasting instead of frying.
Add grains such as whole grain rice/pasta, barley, spelt and oats to meals.
Whole grains are rich in dietary fibre and contain various nutrients such as magnesium, selenium and vitamin E important for heart health.
Refined grains such as white pasta/rice go through a refining process which strips away many of the nutrients and the dietary fibre.
Include protein sources such as beans and lentils.
These may be purchased canned to save cooking time. Preferably, they should be rinsed with water before consumption as to eliminate some of the salt added for preservation purposes.
Beans / lentils could also be purchased dried, cooked in bulk and frozen in portions.
Add sources of healthy fats.
Cheap sources include sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, linseeds, tahini (sesame seed paste), and walnuts.
These could be added to a bowl of porridge, to make home-made granola, to a barley salad etc...
Make your own nut butter.
Purchase nuts in bulk, find a recipe online and use a high-speed food processor to get the desired texture.
Use a variety of dried herbs in meals (e.g., basil, oregano, sage) and spices (e.g., smoked paprika, cumin, cinnamon).
Creating plant-based meals doesn’t have to be expensive, it’s all about planning and making more conscious food choices. Remember, consuming nutritious food is an act of self-love and an investment the future you will be thankful for.