How to Eat Healthy in Korea

Moving to a new country comes with all sorts of challenges and new experiences. The food you will eat is one of the biggest changes you will encounter. In order to stick to a healthy diet and maintain a semblance of an eating routine in South Korea, you will most likely have to get creative. Moving from your home where you have a kitchen, ingredients, and all the necessary tools needed to cook is a luxury. But fear not! Living in the dorms is tricky in regards to eating habits, but nothing that cannot be overcome with a little improvisation. I will share a little bit about how I have managed to be satisfied with my eating routine while living in the dorms.

When I came to Seoul, I was initially overwhelmed with all the new foods and treats. I would try a new ice cream sandwich every week (or day). Some of the Korean food I tried, I loved, but other dishes I could not stand. After a few weeks in Seoul, I was feeling off kilter because I was eating out every meal. It was really hard to get the nutrition I was used to when eating foreign foods and not always being able to read the menu to order exactly what I wanted. I was frustrated that there was no kitchen for me to use to cook dishes from scratch and eat more affordably. I am used to a very healthy diet at home, so I was determined to make something work. I began taking advantage of the E-mart and corner stores all within walking distance of the dorms to buy fruit, vegetables, yogurt, and packaged snacks. Plus eating in campus cafeterias is more affordable than going to a restaurant and just as good if you figure out which are the good cafeterias ;). My favorite cafeterias are the ones on the 7th floor of the Ecology Building and the Student Union cafeteria. These both offer 3 or more options and the food is different everyday!

 

Tips:

 

1. Take advantage of the dorm refrigerators:

The communal refrigerators are always packed, but I guarantee there is room for whatever you may have (think Mary Poppins purse). Just write your name on your food and no one will touch it.IMG_7595

2. Invest in utensils and sealed containers

Daiso is walking distance from Hanyang University and it has everything you need in regard to home items. Investing in a cutting board, knife, bowl, and a couple sealed containers will definitely be useful and cost you no more than 5,000 Won.

3. Have 1 meal out a day:

Everyone on exchange is trying to participate in the most activities they can and make every penny count. If you limit your spending on food to eating out only once a day, this will help your budget immensely. I recommend getting one big meal, like bibimbap, out or eating in the cafeterias. In most of the campus cafeterias you get seconds or extra rice if you just ask. If you have fruits, veggies, and a few snacks, it is very possible to have 2 meals at home a day.

4. Snacks:

All the convenience stores sell hard-boiled eggs, packaged nuts, granola bars, and cereal. You are allowed to have these kinds of snacks in the dorms and most packaged items keep for months! Also, if you have a Costco membership, there is one in Seoul and you can buy in bulk at the beginning of the semester to stock up.

5. Gimbap:

Gimbap will become your new best friend. It is basically Korean style sushi but with no raw fish. It is usually around 2,500-4,000 Won and perfect for a snack or light meal. You can get it with veggies, beef, tuna, or practically anything and it is sold everywhere!

6. Limit cafe drinks

Bubble tea and frappes are EVERYWHERE. You cannot escape them. You just have to make up your mind to not drink one 3 times a day! I promise you will not miss out; they will always be there. Specialty drinks eat up a budget quickly.

 

Meal Ideas:

 

1.  Salad/Fruit Salad

In E-mart there is a huge vegetable selection, both organic and regular, with spinach, carrots, cucumbers, peppers, and any green you can imagine. They range in price, but a big bag of spinach is under 3,000 Won for example. So pick out a dressing in E-mart and use the bowl you bought to mix up a healthy meal!

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2. Tuna and Crackers

E-mart and many grocery stores, offer many different kinds of tuna, in different brands and flavors. Tuna and crackers is a great way to be satisfied with a snack and get your protein.

3. Quinoa and veggies

Using one of the sealed, microwave safe containers you bought at Daiso, you can make quinoa and veggies. Mix the quinoa with the appropriate amount of water and broccoli for example, and cook it in the community microwave in the dormitory cafeteria. :)

4. Yogurt and Granola

Luckily, South Korea offers every kind of yogurt; Greek, sweet, plain, smooth, with fruit, anything you can hope for. If you buy a big pack of nuts or granola, and yogurt every week, you have an easy meal!

 

Article by Tara from the U.S.A.

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