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New guide helps international students eat healthy

Amanda Jones

16 March 2017: A new resource is helping international students at the University of Canberra find and cook healthy and culturally appropriate foods.

The booklet Nutritious meal planning, preparation and cooking advice for international students includes nutrition advice, how to eat healthy on a budget, where to find specialist food outlets, ingredient substitutes and more.

The booklet was developed by nutritionists and dietitians from the University’s Faculty of Health and International Student Support Service with feedback from international students.

“The idea came from an honours project a nutrition student completed last year on food insecurity for international students,” Dr Tanya Lawlis, Assistant Professor in Food Science and Nutrition, said.

The study found a number of international students had little or no food literacy skills in their first six months at university.

“This ranged from not having cooked for anyone before or not knowing what local ingredients they could substitute in a traditional dish — to not having enough to eat.”

The booklet aims to give international students the confidence and skills they need to cook good nutritious food within their budget, as well as tips of where to buy it.

“We enjoy a rich and diverse campus culture with over 4,500 international students from over 107 different countries. However, the taste and texture of Australian food can be very different to what international students are used to eating in their home country,” Dr Lawlis said.

“We know a poor diet is often linked to poor grades, so helping students make healthy food choices will also improve their academic performance.”

Students put their new-found culinary skills into action at a cooking class held on campus today. They cooked a roast vegetable, egg, feta cheese and rice salad, and banana parcels with fresh fruit and vegetables provided by the Belconnen Fresh Food Market.

Students prepared the meals under the guidance of Master of Nutrition and Dietetics students, who helped run the class as part of their clinical placement.

Masters student Cathy Wong said the booklet was a great resource for international students.

“I was in the same position when I arrived in Canberra from Hong Kong last year. It took me a while to find where I could buy ingredients and I didn’t know the markets were so close to campus,” the 24-year-old said.

The guide, sponsored by Allianz Global Assistance, also includes food safety tips, information on understanding food labels and a weekly meal planner.

The next cooking class will be held on 27 April.