University, new job, new adventures. September brings news starts for many people.

September 1, 2023

You may have finished school, but whether you are heading off to further education, a new job or taking some time out, some simple nutritional plans can help you stay in good health.

September sees new starts for so many, whether starting university or college, a new job or a gap year, further training or travelling, there can be a lot of focus on planning everything from clothes to saucepans and everything in between.

It is also a good time to start thinking about keeping your health in good order too. Heading away from home for the first time, can be a bit daunting and the first thing that parents worry about is whether you are eating properly or not. You might think your cooking isn’t as good as Mum’s, but a few simple steps can turn even the most reluctant of cooks into one producing healthy meals, even if it is only some of the time.

New beginnings can be a great opportunity to add a new skill to your repertoire. Whether it is cooking, organising your room or even a new sport, you might discover something you didn’t even know you were good at.

Good healthy food, need not be expensive or difficult and eat into your tight budget and busy lifestyle. Including fresh fruit in your shopping is an easy way to boost the quality of your diet. It’s not hard to add a few apples or bananas to your shopping and there are always budget friendly options available in most supermarkets. Easy, quick and no preparation time!

You might not plan to spend all your valuable leisure time cooking, but investing in a simple slow cooker means you can very easily return home to a hot meal that is ready cooked for you. You can bulk out simple proteins with beans and pulses, wonky veg that just need a scrub and a quick peel, a can of tomatoes and you could very easily have a filling casserole by the end of the day. Spice it up to ring the changes, add some pasta to make a one pot meal. There are loads of very easy and cheap to make meals online. Sharing a meal with new flatmates and colleagues could be just the thing needed to make new friends.

Sharing skills with flatmates can be a useful thing to do. Are they a great cook? Could you offer to wash up or do some shopping in exchange for a great meal?

If you are unsure if what else you might actually need to take rather than what can fit in the car, check out Save the Student for advice on what to take. There is a checklist you can edit and download. And don’t forget, unless you are off to the most remote campus, there will be shops and delivery services. You don’t need to take everything!

Once you are set and unpacked, discovering new places to go and making new friends the chances are you will get Freshers Flu at some point during your first term. Most new students will come down with some sort of cold type virus varying from a few sniffles to more sever flue like symptoms. High temperature, aching joints, tiredness, sneezing and a feeling of wanting to stay in bed and not because you have over done it the night before.

It is not actually flu, but you can still feel pretty awful and is thought to be brought on by the fact that a lot of new people, each with their own sets of ‘bugs’ are mixing and sharing things such as equipment and facilities. New students are also likely to be tired, not eating well, homesick and stressed, all of these can mean your body is not fighting things off as well as normal.

Freshers flu may be considered unique to the UK, but that doesn’t mean that you still feel ill!

The good news is that you can go some way to looking after yourself if you follow some simple guidelines and give a bit of thought to your health in advance. Simple advice such as regularly washing hands, can help stop the spread of colds and viruses. Opening your windows when you can and getting fresh air is important too, as is keeping hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

If you are prone to feeling stressed or nervous, foods rich in B vitamins such as Marmite, wholemeal bread, wholegrain cereals are good sources. You can also take a B vitamin supplement that will provide a wide spectrum of B vitamins. These nutrients play a vast number of roles in the body and B vitamins contribute to functions such as the reduction of tiredness and fatigue and also energy yielding metabolism.

Magnesium is another nutrient that plays a role in helping to reduce tiredness and fatigue and also contributes to normal psychological function. You can take single supplements or by using a multi vitamin and mineral, you can have smaller amounts of a full spectrum of nutrients.

Looking after the health of your immune system is also important. When organising your shopping, try to include fresh fruit and veg, even if you begin with simple salad ingredients and a few fruits every week. These can be a source of vitamin C, which along with minerals such as zinc, found in seeds, nuts, meat, to name a few sources, are known to contribute to a healthy immune system.

Not only is drinking water good for mental function, it is also free!

Vitamin D and the friendly bacteria in our guts are rarely out of the nutritional news at the moment. Both have a role to play in the health of the immune system. Although we can manufacture vitamin D in the body during the sunnier months, the NHS recommend that from October to March, it can be beneficial to take a supplement. Vitamin D is well known for supporting bone health, but research is showing that it also plays a role in many other areas including immune health and our moods. We know how important the friendly bacteria is to keeping our gut microbiome healthy, but more recent research is also suggesting that there are roles to play in much more than that, including skin health and our mental health too.

Foods that support your microbiome include fermented foods such as yoghurt, kefire, kimchi and sauerkraut. You can also take a supplement.

With a bit of planning, you can focus on wellness and not illness, there will be ups and downs and if you feel unwell mentally or physically, it is still important to check it out with a health professional or NHS 111, especially if this is your first time away from home and you are unsure. Just the reassurance that you are doing the right things can go along way in helping you feel better.

Remember, you are not on your own, a phone call to a friend or home can go a long way in helping the transition to your new role whether it be university, a new job or going off on a travel adventure. It takes time to adjust being out of the routine of school and sixth form, so whatever you are doing, be gentle with yourself as you learn new ways of doing things.

If you are feeling really under pressure, talk to someone. Whether on campus or not, there are a lot of resources online to help you through.

Get to know your supplements, some you may wish to take daily others are for when you feel you need them. Get a cookbook and learn a few simple meals, even if you are still at home, who is going to complain if you start creating new family dishes?

Most of all, try to have some fun and take time to enjoy whatever your new plans are. There may be bumps along the way, but don’t be too hard on yourself and ask for help when you need it. New opportunities can mean new skills, new adventures and new friendships that can last a lifetime. Enjoy!

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