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Old 08-29-2012, 01:48 PM   #1  
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Default Absolutely terrified!! Starting uni in a few weeks and need advice...

A little about me- I'm American, starting at UCL this fall for a Bachelor's in European Social and Political Studies. SO excited but also scared sh*tless!

One of the things I'm scared of is the infamous Freshman 15 that everyone hears about in the states (and sees on their friends when they come home). Is that as big of an issue in the UK?? Did you gain weight your first year at school??

I chose a self-catered residence just so I could avoid cafeteria style food and go along with my own eating schedule, but the truth is I can barely cook anything. I'm not worried about eating junk all the time, but I am worried about buying myself only fruits and veggies (basically starving myself because I can't cook) and then binging excessively on nights out at fast food places and whatnot...

any tips/advice/words of wisdom???
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Old 08-29-2012, 01:52 PM   #2  
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Buy a cookbook. There are tons. 15 minute meals, college kids guide to cooking... there are endless ones for people who are just starting out and have limited resources. You could also try your local library to see if any are available.

Another thing is to give yourself time to exercise. Yes, it is way easier and way more fun to chill with the new friends every night eating chips and still totally possible if you balance it with some exercise!
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Old 08-29-2012, 02:20 PM   #3  
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first thing i learnt to cook.

the breast of one fine chicken. (ha chicken breast).

thaw the breast.
throw on pan with a little oil/spray/water. season, or don't season, whatever you fancy.

when you slice through the breast and it's not bloody, it's done.

try things!

read things online!

buy a cook book!

i still can't cook from a recipe to save my life, but little experimentations such as these work!
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Old 08-29-2012, 03:13 PM   #4  
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Ever think that some of that "freshman 15" is actually muscle gain from all the walking and heavy books?

Either way... CALM DOWN.

As for your lack of cooking skills ... you are at a college ... a perfect time to learn.

I'll start you off ... buy a small crock pot.

Fill the crock pot 3/4ths with chunks of beef/potatoes/carrots/celery/onion/parsnip (looks like a giant cream colored carrot) add a bouilon cube or a package of stew mix and pepper to taste. Add enough water to cover everything and stir. Turn on the pot and let it cook for a few hours.

Not only is it filling, healthy and delicious, you with have people from all over the dorm sniffing at your door.

Last edited by drixnot; 08-29-2012 at 03:28 PM.
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Old 08-29-2012, 03:29 PM   #5  
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I can't tell about the UK, since I did all my college studies in France, but the freshman 15 never happened to me. Actually, it was rather the freshman -15; being on a tight budget prevented me from buying junk food, and our cafeteria meals were actually balanced (although they were too heavy in terms of quantity, so I guess I managed to unconsciously keep myself in check or something?). ^^;

You probably won't have a budget for complex cooking, whether in terms of time or money, but cooking balanced meals isn't so complicated, provided you're not heavy-bent on having gourmet food all the time, that is. Mostly I lived off green beans (and other 'easy to cook' vegetables), omelettes (cheap protein!), small pasta dishes, yoghurts, lean meat, etc. Some salt and especially herb seasoning will do wonders, in lieu of sauces (chutney on the side is nice, too, with pork and chicken meat). Granted, at times it gets a little bland, so on week ends you can take more time to cook something more appealing. There are plenty of books with easy recipes (look for 'cooking for single people' and stuff like that, too). Or on the internet. In France we have, I'd be surprised if the UK & USA didn't have equivalents to that.

Cooking's not too complicated in itself, and nobody's asking you to cook uber 5-stars dishes anyway. What's important when you're not used to it is to 1) follow the recipe and 2) keep focused on what you're doing. (Hey, I *did* manage to burn a whole pan of *rice* just because I was reading instead of watching over it. Now I'm careful about it.) If really you've never cooked anything in your life, start with easy things like pasta, eggs, etc.

Additionally, if you don't like cooking, you can do like I do and pretend you're an alchemist in her lab, and what's a good cooking session without an explosion or two, right?
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Old 08-29-2012, 04:13 PM   #6  
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Get a rice cooker. I myself know how to make rice on the stove top and prefer it that way. However, sharing a kitchen with other people (especially in London!) might mean crowded space and limited stovetop cooking time. I studied in the UK last year and many of the students owned rice cookers.

Learn one or two chicken recipes to get you started and be proactive in finding new recipes you like so that you don't get bored. In the UK I used to season chicken with salt and coriander, then cook it over a little bit of olive oil and garlic. I would make brown rice and sautee some mushrooms to go with it.

Also, my university had a welcome week (actually two weeks, one was for international students only), anyway, this is the time where they will show you all the sports and clubs that you can participate in. So if I were you I'd definitely join some of those to stay active. It can be as simple as a hiking club.
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Old 08-29-2012, 05:37 PM   #7  
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The Freshman 15 can happen to anyone, anywhere if they let it! I actually find it much easier to make healthier food choices in the UK (except when eating out as they don't have nutrition info etc. on menus) and I lost weight when I moved here. I don't think you'll have too much to worry about once you're as careful as you'd be at home with what you're eating.
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Old 08-30-2012, 11:22 AM   #8  
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seeing free there is a good thing about London, lots of parks and interesting stuff to see if you are prepared to walk alot!
I use alot of quorn...a veggie substitute for mince which is low fat and goes a long long way as I am on a limited budget and have to feed a family of 4.
Have a look on amazon for a second hand student cookbook. If you can read can follow a recipe!!!! and as long as you cook chicken or any other meat for long enough you can't go wrong.
I have loads of really simple recipes in my head that my daughter wants me to put into a recipe book when she goes to uni in 2 years. If you would like any ....just let me know.
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Old 08-31-2012, 02:52 PM   #9  
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No - I didn't put on the 'freshman 15'. That was due to choices I made though. I started uni at 140 lbs (BMI 23) and I lost around 10 lbs during my first year.
I was also in catered accomodation. I stuck to the following rules from day #1 when visiting the catered bit:
1. No chips (fries)
2. No puddings
3. At breakfast I had bran flakes & milk and grapefruit(you were allowed six parts so I always took 2 wholemeal rolls and an apple as well and ate them for lunch or a snack later)
4. Never had chocolate out of the vending machine (I did have small packets of sweets though).

I also did more exercise that year that what I did at school.

I was by no means an angel (the odd packet of cookies/takeaways/plenty of drinking etc) but I found sticking to these simple rules really helped a lot.
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Old 08-31-2012, 03:37 PM   #10  
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The South Beach Quick & Easy Cookbook has lots of very easy (minimal ingredients) recipes that take 30 minutes or less to prepare. A friend of mine taught herself to cook with it once she moved out of the dorm and got her own apartment. Even if South Beach isn't your plan, the recipes are healthy and low-cal and pretty good. There are used copies on Amazon for a couple dollars plus shipping.

ETA: A lot of the notorious 'freshman 15' comes from drinking, so if you avoid too much of that and walk a lot you'll be fine. I'm envious! I never got the chance to study abroad. Enjoy your experience!

Last edited by thistoo; 08-31-2012 at 03:39 PM.
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Old 08-31-2012, 05:13 PM   #11  
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well first of all congratulations on getting into UCL. It was my first choice but I didn't get in (I ended up going to Durham and loved every minute of it anyway). And in the end I moved to London anyway to work, there is no place like it.

I did gain weight during uni and this was because of going out. I'm a good cook and I always eat healthily but I would go out drinking and grab takeaways/go to restaurants because of the social aspect- I found I couldn't avoid it but when I started I wasn't bothered about calories at all so I didn't make a conscious effort.

Be prepared for a challenge. It's so difficult to be restrained while meeting new people and trying to have a social life and even now I still sometimes struggle. In the UK, drinking age is 18 (obviously you know that) and student culture centres around going out, getting drunk and dancing. My advice would be to memorise how many calories are in alcohol (for me it acts as a deterrent) and, after said night out it's customary to head to the local greasy takeaway. Do not under any circumstances order anything at a the places that are still open after a night out. The food at those places contain an obscene amount of calories and aren't worth it!

One thing that will work to your advantage is that London is very expensive for night life (and accommodation and food), so stick to a budget (It will also cut down on calories through alcohol). Meat products in supermarkets are so much more expensive than in other parts of the UK, But Green grocers are everywhere and such good value for money. I do a week's worth of veg shopping for 2 people for about 6 (And I eat a lot of veg). There's also a weekly farmers market near tottenham court road (Berwick street) which you should check out (avoid the fried food they sell though).

In terms of going out for meals, you can eat healthily in London and still get delicious food so you can have the best of both worlds. There's a lot of restaurants popping up that emphasise healthy eating (and a lot of restaurants have their nutritional information on their website).

Soho is the best area for restaurants, you have a fantastic mix of cuisines and if you stray off of the beaten track you'll find some amazing places to eat. I especially recommend BiBimBap on Greek street ( I can eat there on my calorie budget, the food is basically rice, veg and topping- they do tofu which is very good for you and low calorie and you can opt for brown rice served in a stone bowl and it is delicious.

If you stray into Camden (I recommend you do!) There's a Japanese place in Mornington Crescent called Asakusa (265 Eversholt street)- You HAVE to book though, it's cheap and very popular. They do great grilled meat dishes with stir fry veg, miso soup and rice.

Vietnamese food is also very healthy and usually salad based, there are several great independent chains dotted about in Soho.

Hummus Bros (Wardour Street) is sooo good, healthy and they list their cals on their website.

Err... if you just fancy a sandwich I recommend Pret a manager because all calories are listed on the price labels so it's basically no fuss eating. They regularly do soup, some of which is really low calorie and I lived off of when I first started working.

I hope this sort of helps as a mini-informal guide to London.

Edit: I forgot, is a great food blog set up by a student who's been travelling. The recipes are easy, cheap and there are some real low cal gems in there. Some of them call for sugar (but I usually sub that for honey or just omit completely and it still tastes really great). Try Swahili chicken, jamaican stew and chilli recipes!

Last edited by belmagick; 08-31-2012 at 05:45 PM.
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Old 09-02-2012, 03:29 PM   #12  
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Last year I was in catered but I could only eat the vegetarian options, and I lost around 10kg during that year. As long as you eat right, then you shouldn't drastically put on weight. During that time, most students tend to eat takeway every night and drink very often, this is why they put on weight. Like others have mentioned get yourself a cook book to start of familiarising yourself with different recipes ^^
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Old 10-02-2012, 08:52 AM   #13  
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Don't be terrified!! You're going to have so much fun!

London is a great place to eat healthily actually, we have so many amazing restaurants and cafes that cater to healthier diets- I am rushing off now but if you want I can send you a list of my faves!! What area are you in??

I second what everyone said about people putting on weight here being more to do with alcohol- student culture in the UK is very alcohol driven- but that doesn't mean you have to drink at all. I hardly drink anything on nights out- partly for health, partly because I don't want to pay 10 for a drink!! And it really isn't an issue.
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Old 10-11-2012, 06:21 AM   #14  
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Check out as it's geared toward uni students who have little or no experience cooking
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