The College Kid Kitchen – A Cheat Sheat

Well hello, calendar. It’s August 18th, you say? Are you KIDDING ME? Wasn’t it just June?

This year I’m not wandering up and down the aisles of Target, grabbing sparkly pencils (What? You mean I’m not still in sixth grade?) and extra-long twin bed sheets to stuff in the trunk of my car in anticipation of move-in day at my university.

I may be the only person in the world who gets done with college with nothing but amazing things to say about dorm living…but I can’t lie, I loved it! My campus was gorgeous, the dorms were (relatively) new and (relatively) stinkless, and there was always something going on. Having the majority of my friends within a five minute walk was an added bonus!

The only downside of living on campus was the meal plan requirement. Our cafeteria left MUCH to be desired, yet all residents were required to purchase a pass for a minimum of 10 meals per week. Most of the time I’d eat about 7 of those in the cafeteria, getting the rest of my food from my minifridge or a fast food joint.  Looking back, I would have done far better relying more on the former and less on the latter – no surprise there! Wendy’s, McDonald’s, and Dairy Queen does not a healthy diet make.

By the last semester of my senior year, I had a pretty good handle on my health, began stocking my fridge much more wisely, and got creative with dormifying recipes. There was a far better balance of appropriate choices to go along with the requisite pizza consumption.

With enough planning, it’s entirely possible to avoid the freshman 15. There really are quite a few nutritionally viable options for the lucky dorm-dwellers of 2010!

Breakfasts

  • Oatmeal. NOT the flavored, sugar-infused individual packets from Quaker, but the plain and simple instant rolled oats in a canister.
  • Natural Peanut Butter. Not only is it a perfect fat-and-protein packed oatmeal topping, but smeared on an apple (which you can often klepto from the cafeteria), it’s a perfect study snack.
  • Greek Yogurt. These bad boys take up minimum fridge space and are portable enough to bring along to your 6 am class if you oversleep.
  • Cottage Cheese. Pair it with a piece of fresh fruit for a no-prep-required light morning meal!

Lunches

  • Deli-style sandwiches. You can’t get much easier than a few slices of lean ham or turkey (or hey, even Tofurkey!) with a slice of part-skim provolone or cheddar and a squeeze of mustard!
  • Dippers + Hummus. A classic assortment of veggies (such as carrots, cherry tomatoes, and broccoli heads) and a slice of whole wheat pita are a fab midday pick-me-up paired with a substantial dip like hummus.
  • Cold salads. Most major grocery stores offer small bins of pre-made lunch salads, such as tabbouleh or a cold couscous. Check the chilled cases near the deli for selections, but avoid mayonnaise-loaded selections like potato salad and cole slaw.
  • Salad kits. Look for a bag that includes a dark leafy green like romaine, extra veggies such as carrots, cabbage, and mushrooms, and a satiety-boosting component such as shredded chicken or mozzarella cubes.

Dinners

  • Low sodium canned soups. Amy’s is my go-to brand for their Low Sodium Lentil and vegetarian Minestrone, but Muir Glen and even Progresso have viable options. Just don’t forget the can opener!
  • Microwavable instant brown rice. The possibilities are endless: Top with a sliced avocado, organic canned black beans, and salsa for a Mexican theme; use feta crumbles + cucumber + canned beet slices for a Greek variation, or organic canned pinto beans + part-skim cheddar.
  • Amy’s frozen dinners. While I normally don’t advocate resorting to microwave meals, the reality is, in college, it happens. Her Indian and Spanish choices are on the better end of the frozen meal scale and stick with mostly respectable ingredients.

Snacks

  • Nuts
  • No-sugar-added dried fruits
  • Clif/Luna/Lara Bars
  • Whole grain pretzels + Part-Skim Cheese
  • Raw veggies + honey mustard, dijon, or a light ranch dressing
  • Dry cereal (Kashi is always a good place to start)

Have any questions or concerns about staying or getting healthy during college?  As a fresh-outta-college gal, I’d love to give my perspective on them! Shoot me an email or leave a comment and let’s get a dialogue going!

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22 Comments on “The College Kid Kitchen – A Cheat Sheat”

  1. These are great suggestions! I actually loved dorm-life as well- I became really great friends with my roommate and it was great to be on campus.

    • Faith says:

      True, I definitely think that lucking out with world’s coolest roommate made the experience that much better. I’ve heard tons of horror stories though!

  2. Kittie says:

    Haha. I have my non perishable food bin all packed up for school and along with some other staples like brown rice an quinoa, I have all the staples you listed. 😉 health in the dorm CAN happen!

  3. Thank you so much for posting this! I go back to school tomorrow and our school’s idea of healthy is diet-only pop in the machines and “would you like shredded lettuce ontop of your chilli-cheese potato?” Needless to say I pack my lunch and def. get caught packing the samo samo way to mucho! This should def. help.

  4. I love the lunch ideas, as I always struggle with what to take to work for lunch.

  5. Yay for you for liking dorm life! Unfortunately I didn’t love it because I had a terrible roomie. Hey, you win some, you lose some, right? 🙂

  6. These are great tips for any age! 🙂

  7. Those are some great tips and I sure could have used that advice two years ago!

  8. Katie says:

    I wish I would have eaten more healthy in college! I was all over the map with my diet – my weight was pretty similar to what it is now, but I felt like CRAP all the time! Great “cheat sheet” 🙂

  9. Run Sarah says:

    Great tips – I wish I had eaten healthier in university. I ate SO much pasta, high sodium soups, 100 calorie snacks, bagels, cream cheese and McDonalds.

  10. Jenn says:

    This is a fantastic post even if it makes me feel old. 😉 What perfect timing for those going back to school. Great advice I wish I would have had back them.

  11. kaztronomic says:

    I wish I had the chance to live on campus. I think I missed out on a great experience. Oh well! I’m happy commuting to and from class from the comfort of my home. =)

    These are all excellent tips! I can keep it in mind for my hectic work/school days and want to come home to a simple meal, or pack something quick and healthy. Thank you! =)

  12. Sweet tips. I graduated college 2 years ago but was an RA so I ate on campus the whole time… so I feel like now as I head to grad school next year will be the first time I have my real “college kid kitchen.” Haha. Definitely will be using these tips!

  13. I’m glad you liked dorm life (I did not haha). But I completely agree that it’s easy to avoid the Freshman 15. I was all about the loaded salad bars, hummus, crackers, oatmeal, and Lean Cuisines (which I don’t recommend anymore…but it did help).

  14. joyce says:

    Love the new layout Faith! And I wish I had these tips when I was a freshman 8 years ago (ugh it’s been that long). When I think back on the cafeteria food and all the processed foods I was eating when I was in my dorm and too lazy to get real food, I cringe a bit. I know your suggestions will help those still in school!

  15. Great tips! I just moved out of the dorm this year and into an apartment, but I did a lot of the things you suggested. A common meal for me was sweet potatoes with peanut butter, and later I discovered microwaved eggs. A great way to get produce is either a farmer’s market (if you can find one near the dorm) or filling up a carton with veggies from the cafeteria. I was never sure if that was allowed or not, but I figured no one would get mad at a student taking extra veggies to her dorm room. 😉

    • Faith says:

      Oh I TOTALLY snuck food! We were only allowed to walk out with one piece of fruit in our hands so I’d literally make all my friends “steal” an apple for me 😉

  16. spoonfulofsugarfree says:

    Oh this is great because I am going to college in two years, and I am super scared to give up my stove and oven 😦

  17. I can’t believe it’s August either! Crazy! When I drove past the school by my house and saw the lot filled, it about blew me away. This year is going by SO. Fast.

    Great suggestions on the meals! I wish I would have been so educated while in college:)

  18. This is a great post 🙂 Thanks for aggregating all of those healthy food choices!

  19. Sarah says:

    Great tips! I just love reading your eating ideas. Most of them apply to an on-the-go girl (like me), too!


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