What’s on the table?

The importance of meal-prepping, and an overnight oats recipe

Instant noodles and Kraft Dinner have been long-time staples of the university student’s diet, but they don’t have to be.  

Students, especially those with limited access to cooking appliances, can have difficulty finding the time, money or knowledge to make nutritious meals for themselves. There are, however, healthy alternatives to the quick and easy instant meals that are often full of fat, sugar and salt.  

Avoiding malnutrition 

Malnutrition is an ever-present danger in a university student’s life if proper, nutritious meals are foregone in favour of school, work or social events. It is crucial that steps are taken to safeguard against malnutrition and its negative effects. According to the World Health Organization, malnutrition refers to imbalances, or improper intake, of energy and nutrients. Malnutrition can lead to an abundance of serious health issues, and while some of these issues can be treated by correcting your diet, in more severe, prolonged cases, they require the attention of a healthcare professional. 

Keeping in mind the importance of proper nutrition, how does one ensure they are getting enough, or the right, nutrients?  

The importance of meal prepping 

One common way people take care of their meals is through a meal prep plan. Meal prep means making a bulk amount of a meal, packaging it in single servings and then storing it in either the fridge or freezer for the week. This method means you can spend less time in the kitchen if you’re short on time to spare and ensures that you have at least one full, well-balanced meal every day of the week. That means, even if you sleep in and go to class without breakfast, or end up working an extra evening shift without getting supper, you have a homemade pre-packaged meal to consume. 

So, what goes into meal prep? 

When creating meals, diversity is a must. If you think about what kind of food you typically buy when you’re on-the-go, it’s probably fast-food or carb-rich. The food group that often gets left behind is fruits and vegetables, so these should be the first things you think about putting in your meals for the week. Then add in a protein, whether meat or something vegan-friendly. After that, consider adding in some dairy and a type of grain. 

With current prices taken from Atlantic Superstore, you can make a week’s worth of pork with rice, vegetables and yogurt, for $3.75 each; the total ingredients costing $26.38.  

Here’s what you’d need per meal: 

Cheap and Hearty Pork Chop Dinner- 

One pork chop (President’s Choice club pack of eight, $5.42) 

One Activia yogurt cup (12 pack, $5.99) 

One and a half cups of cooked wild rice (one 900 gram package, $6.49) 

One spoonful frozen broccoli (one 500 gram package, $4.49) 

One spoonful mixed frozen peas and carrots (one 100 gram package, $3.99) 

 Separate the portions into different containers and keep them in the fridge or freezer until you are ready to eat them. Be careful not to make more food than you have room for or are able to eat before it goes bad! 

It can be easy for students to skip meals, here’s how to stop. (Photo by Gabrielle Drapeau) 

Overnight oats – a meal prep intro 

Overnight oats are a lovely way to start the morning. They are tasty, healthy, filling and easy to take with you on-the-go.  

As someone who regularly gets up early in the morning and doesn’t usually have time to sit down for breakfast, I love having something I can take with me to school without having to worry about cooking, or even heating anything up. 

Here’s how you can make it: 

Overnight oats are a great way to start a tight morning. (Photo by Gabrielle Drapeau)

Overnight oats recipe (1 serving)– 

Half a cup of rolled or instant oats 

Half a cup of milk or milk substitute 

Sugar, as desired 

One eighth of a teaspoon of salt 

Berry or flavour additive of choice (such as cinnamon or other spices/syrups) 

(Blueberry rolled oats priced at $1.10 per serving) 

Making overnight oats couldn’t be simpler. The night before you plan to eat them, add all ingredients listed above to a mason jar (or similar container) and shake well to mix. Put the jar in the fridge, give them a stir in the morning and enjoy! 

These are meant to be prepared the night before consumption, but can last up to a week in the fridge. That means you can meal prep for breakfast too. Take some time on Sunday night to fill up jars and have them during the school week. Like the meal prep example above, rolled oats hit several food groups: grains, dairy and whatever kind of fruit you decide to add as a topping. 

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Gabrielle Drapeau

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