Will You Eat Healthy In College?

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Ahh, yes. The college dorm. Shower shoes, quiet hours, bunk beds, shared closets, and tight living quarters with complete strangers. What a year it will be! You’ll learn a lot during your first year of college, but some of the most important lessons will be taught right within the confines of your quaint new bedroom. You’ll find out what it’s like to live with people other than your parents and siblings, and what it’s like for other people to live with you. You’ll learn proper roommate etiquette (like cleaning up after yourself and the importance of not hitting snooze on your alarm every ten minutes for an entire hour). And, if you’re anything like me, the most rude-awakening lesson will be how to feed yourself without your mom’s stocked pantry and a fully functional kitchen. Luckily, there are plenty of tips and tricks to help you eat healthy in a college dorm and on a college budget.

THINGS TO ALWAYS HAVE ON HAND

Peanut butter

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A jar of peanut butter typically runs less than $3. There will come a time at night when you need a snack, and you’ll remember you have a spoon and a jar calling your name…

Trail mix

Another one of those snacks you’ll wish you bought for when you’re craving salt or sugar.

Fruit

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Steal this from the dining hall if you have a meal plan. Every college cafeteria that I’ve ever heard of allows you to take 1-2 pieces of fruit with you when leaving. I’m willing to admit that I have smuggled much more than 1-2 pieces of fruit after every meal and have never been punished, but do what you will with this information.

Overnight Oats

You’ll want to do anything you can to make your mornings easier on those days you have 8 am lecture. You can use any kind of container to make this in, but my favorite way to do it is right in the almost-empty peanut butter jar. It’s portable, free, reusable, and ensures that you won’t waste any PB. A huge container of oats is usually less than $4 and lasts basically forever.

I never had any measuring tools on hand in the dorm, so my recipe is to just throw a handful of oats in the PB jar, cover the oats with water (or milk if you have it), some nuts from the trail mix, and store it in your mini fridge over night. If you don’t have a mini-fridge, use water instead of milk and leave it out overnight. I’ve done this plenty of times (and Googled it to cover all my bases of paranoia) and comes out nicely either way. Pro-tip: get your fruit and berries that you grabbed from the dining hall and pop ‘em in the jar in the morning!

Beans & Rice

This has been a loved-beyond-well meal for me in this learning-how-to-adult phase of my life. Mostly because it's extremely cheap to buy bulk dried beans and rice, but also because it offers plenty of protein for all my veg-heads out there. You might not have access to a stove and pots though, so just buy a can of beans (my preference is black or garbanzo) and microwavable rice packs. Both of these run fairly cheap (look for deals or do what I do and shop wherever your mom has a member card and use her phone number to get the deals!). Eat them plain or inside of a tortilla!

Spagetti Squash

My go-to dinner because one of these babies can feed me for legitimately 4 meals. They are pretty common these days, so you can find them at any grocery store. I can usually buy one for $4, which comes out to a ONE DOLLAR DINNER FOR FOUR ENTIRE NIGHTS, which you absolutely cannot beat. Here's my simple recipe: 1. Poke holes into the squash using a fork and microwave for about 7-10 minutes. 2. Cut open, scrape out the seeds. 3. Microwave both halves for maybe another 10-15 minutes (yes your microwave can handle it!) 4. Once it's soft enough to easily scrape with a fork, sprinkle some S&P or other spices, some oil or butter, or really anything you have on hand. Then scrape the entire squash until you get to the skin. Eat away!

Sweet Potato

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Many options here. My personal favorite is that trendy sweet potato toast you might have seen floating around the Internet. If you have a toaster, slice up your sweet potato and put it in the toaster like you would with bread. Turn it on high, let it pop up, and then turn it on high one more time. Your slice should be soft and somewhat crispy. I enjoy mine with crunchy PB and honey. You can enjoy yours with yogurt, fruit, nuts, cheese, veggies, anything really!

Baked sweet potatoes are also a great dinner option if you don't have time to wait around the toaster for ten minutes. Poke some holes with a fork, pop it into the microwave, and let it do its thang for about 5-8 minutes. Sometimes it helps the cooking process to get a damp paper towel to wrap around the potato while in the microwave. I like my baked potatoes pretty plain (truthfully this preference comes from the sole fact that my taste buds have been conditioned to enjoy no spices or any flavor whatsoever due to not being able to afford spices, which you, as a new adult in the world, will come to find out are very expensive for a very small quantity!). Some S&P is enough for me, but if you crave a little more goodness in your life, keep some olive oil on hand or see if your dining hall/dorm kitchen has any spices up for grabs. Plain Greek yogurt is also a wonderful substitute for sour cream!

Dessert

My sweets people, the one tip I can give you is to utilize the reward system when it comes to keeping dessert in the dorm. Chocolate in my room doesn't stand a chance, so life just works best for me if I keep it a reasonable distance away - like at the store. I usually mentally pick something out at the beginning of the week: my latest craving, a new ice cream flavor, or maybe a new shop that opened up. Then I pump myself up throughout the week by telling myself that I can enjoy this amazing dessert on Friday if I work super hard all week and complete every assignment. Pro-tip: This is especially the preferred method to get yourself to study for a big test!

Here's to a great first year in the dorms! Happy healthy eating!

P.S. I know living on top ramen is the easy, cheap, and stereotypical thing to do in college, but the more love, fullness, veggies, and protein you fill your body with, the happier your brain will be! Food truly makes a difference in your ability to think and I hope these inexpensive, quick, and healthier options will stay with you during grocery trips!

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