University students need to place more focus on preparing home-made meals to improve their physical and mental health. An Australian Bureau of Statistics report has identified 18-24-year-olds as the nation’s poorest eaters – consuming more soft drink, burgers and chips, and less fruit and vegetables than the rest of the population.

University of Wollongong (UOW) graduate and practicing dietitian, Nicola Jaffrey is excited to present her first healthy eating workshop at the uni to help counter the trend.

“I want to share tips and tricks to obtain a healthy, balanced diet on a student budget,” she said.

After moving out of home halfway through her degree, Ms Jaffrey noticed a change in her eating habits. She said many students who live on campus or in share houses face similar challenges, and turn to fast food and processed snacks for convenience.

“I found that I had to think a lot more, always prepping food rather than being able to come home and eat whatever was in the pantry,” she said.

Ms Jaffrey said students needed to know how to cook healthy meals because they face periods of mental stress while studying.

“Eating a healthy and varied diet can help with concentration and mental stamina, but also helps with weight management, which can combat and assist depression,” she said.

In addition to the upcoming workshop, the University will run cooking classes at self-catered student residences. The classes are run by former Masterchef contestants in an effort to appeal to UOW accommodation services’ young audience.

Dalvinder Dhami, who featured on the fourth season of Masterchef Australia, said many Australian students turn to easy meal options.

“My impression at the moment is that students are mainly eating carbohydrates such as cereals, bread, sandwiches and hot chips. The eating habits are one of low cost, quick snacks,” she said.

Ms Dhami said convenience and cost were the main factors that prevent students from eating healthily.

“It seems students are still eating poorly as they need to get a quick bite to fit in their university obligations,” she said.

“Students should put aside a couple hours a week to cook in batches and freeze meals for easy options during busier weeks.”

UOW will be hosting Ms Jaffrey’s meal plan workshop next Tuesday, 12 May, at 12.30pm.  The workshop will target students on a university budget, and is one of many weekly workshops part of the Good Life Series by the UOW Centre for Student Engagement.