By Lucy Fairlie-JonesNutritionist (BNutr, Hons, RN) at Good Habits.

Moving to a new country is an incredibly exciting adventure, but when trying to overcome cultural and language barriers, make friends, study and orientate yourself in a new location, it’s not uncommon that diet and fitness goals become a low priority.

You may think to yourself, “Passing this exam next week is much more important than eating healthy or exercising today.” However, research tells us that this is the absolute opposite of what you should be thinking.

A good diet and fitness regime can provide you with the energy to study, socialise and make the most of your new environment. Wellness should be at the top of your priorities, as good health has the power to enhance every experience you have.

We know for a fact that a healthy diet and active lifestyle can offer benefits to your mental health, concentration, energy levels and grades. Simply by eating well and getting regular exercise, your study sessions will be so much more effective. What’s the point in studying for ten hours when you could learn the same amount in three?

But what’s the secret? How can you balance having a student lifestyle with keeping fit and healthy?

To get your semester off to a good start, here are some simple, effective, evidence-based strategies you can incorporate into your daily routine.

nutrition tips

Make the healthy option the easy option: get organised

Planning your meals is crucial to your success. When your schedule gets busy and you’re feeling stressed after a long day, it can be a struggle to motivate yourself to cook something at home. If you’ve already decided what you’re going to eat from Monday to Friday, this brings you one step closer to actually making those meals. Plan some fresh, healthy meals at the start of the week, make a shopping list, and buy ingredients for the next five days. If you have some extra time on the weekend, you could even prepare some ingredients to save time during the week. For example, you could cook a large amount of rice and divide it into portions, or pre-chop some vegetables so that they’re ready to go when you need them.

It’s also so much cheaper (and often quicker) to eat meals at home, especially if you make extra food for lunch the next day. Regardless of where you live in Australia, most supermarkets stock an abundance of cheap and delicious vegetables. Fruit is also a fantastic and affordable snack, and with such variety, you’re bound to find a new favourite. Look for other affordable healthy ingredients such as brown rice, noodles, wholegrain bread, tofu and lean meats such as chicken or fish. I challenge you to find a good excuse not to eat healthily!

If you’re not sure how to cook, or even what to cook, why not look online for inspiration? There are so many easy, healthy recipes out there. YouTube has some great cooking and meal preparation tutorials that can guide you through cooking your meals. You could even try a local cooking class if you need somewhere to get started and want to learn some basic skills. Remember, healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, some of the yummiest, healthiest meals are the simplest ones! It doesn’t matter where you start, just start somewhere. Your cooking skills will develop as you go, and they will benefit you for the rest of your life.

nutrition tips

Get your friends involved

Eating at a restaurant or buying takeaway food is often the way we get together with our friends to socialise. This kind of food tastes good but isn’t great for your health. Restaurants add extra salt, unhealthy fats and preservatives to keep you coming back for more. If you’re exploring your new city, it’s fun to go out for meals, but it’s recommended you limit this to only a few times per week.

Don’t worry, there’s no need to abandon your friends to get healthy. Why not invite your friends over to share a home-cooked meal? Alternatively, because the weather is so nice and warm right now, why not ask your friends to bring a nutritious dish and go for a picnic in a local park? It’s a great opportunity to explore a new location while encouraging healthy behaviours in your friendship group.

Studies show that we are much more likely to sustain healthy behaviour if our friends or partners are doing it with us. Trust me, others will notice this positive change in your life and you will naturally inspire the people around you to adopt healthy habits too.

nutrition tips

Move your body every day

The great thing about studying in Australia is that there are so many opportunities to exercise. Walking or riding a bike to and from your college or university is a fantastic way to sneak in some exercise, get your heart rate up and reap all the health benefits without even trying. It might also be worth checking if your university has a gym. Not only does it become more convenient to fit in a quick workout after classes, but often university gyms offer a student discount.

If you don’t have much time to spare, or any equipment, don’t see this as a problem. Just 30 minutes of fast-paced walking or body weight exercises is all you need to get the benefits of exercise. Catch up on an audio lecture or listen to your favourite music while you exercise to make it interesting. The secret to a long-lasting exercise routine is to make it enjoyable.

Remember, moving your body throughout the day is important too. Walking to and from classes or up and down stairs – it all counts towards your fitness!

Taking care of your health is an investment in your future, just like your education. By making some small changes to your daily routine, you can develop good habits that will be with you forever. If you’d like to know more diet, fitness and wellbeing tips, check out Good Habits.