College is a great time to learn your way around the kitchen, but also the time this is least likely to happen. Time flies when you’re studying, and even more so when deadlines are approaching at the speed of light. This can make it difficult to carve time out of your day to create elaborate meals.
Even so, there are some tasty and relatively healthy and simple meals that take twenty minutes or less to prepare. Check out our list of top ten go-to foods for college kids that are definitely worth trying.
When most people think of salads, they picture a lot of green leafy vegetables, with not much tasty bits to work with. However, there are many different kinds of salads.
While a plain salad is the healthiest, you can incorporate boiled eggs, cheese, jalapenos, dehydrated peppers, shrimp, chicken, scallops, pasta, and even fruits to make it tastier. Experiment until you find something that works for you.
Eating salads helps to fill you with fiber, while providing much needed iron, protein, and antioxidants. But if you’re looking to lose weight, remember to take it easy on the salad dressing, or you’ll up your calories by quite a bit.
Salads make a healthy meal, and popcorn makes for a healthy snack. To spruce it up, try adding some cinnamon or diced nuts to the mix. Remember to go easy on the butter, as just like salad dressing, too much can make even a McDonald’s burger a healthier alternative.
But is popcorn what anyone would call healthy in the first place? The answer might surprise you. Studies show, this movie snack helps to regulate blood sugar, helps you lose weight, prevents cancer, helps the digestive process along, and even prevents premature aging.
Kale is all the rage these days in the world of smoothies, but there are many different blends that work together depending on your preferences.
Try starting out with your favorite fruits and vegetables, and check the good ol’ internet for great recipes, whether you’re a vegan-organic-health-nut, or just looking for a great addition to your usual diet.
Smoothies are quick and easy to make, and help college students pack in the daily allowance of fruits and vegetables to boost their immune system. Smoothies also help with keeping off that freshman fifteen, improves digestion, reduces cravings, and helps the body to detox.
Sushi is a flavorful contribution from Japanese culture, which has really caught on around the world. Packed with rice, vegetables, and often also cheeses, seafood, and meat; sushi provides protein, carbs, fiber, iron, and Vitamin C.
It may take some time – and a few new tools for the kitchen – to learn how to make sushi. In the meantime, grab some sushi take-out, bring it home, and pair it with a salad, or baked asparagus, for a healthy and delicious meal.
6. Grilled Cheese
Cheese and bread is unlikely to rank very high on the list of healthy foods, but as far as ease of preparation and the simplicity of ingredients, few things can beat a grilled cheese sandwich. To make it healthier, try using olive oil instead of vegetable oil or butter when ‘grilling’ the sides.
Create new variations by experimenting with additions like; tomatoes, onions, garlic, and jalapenos. Grilled cheese is also pretty tasty when dipped into a nice warm bowl of rich, tomato soup.
5. Tacos, Burritos, and Wraps
Another set of easy fixes are tacos, wraps, and all their variations. You can use just about anything to make great tacos: different kinds of meats, vegetables, cheeses, beans, and taco sauces. Vegetarians can substitute beef or chicken, with veggie crumbles or beans.
For those looking for a gluten-free option, try a burrito bowl instead, which is basically a burrito in a bowl… without the burrito part. So essentially, a salad. Burrito bowls are also great for people looking to cut down on carbs, or regulate blood sugar.
You can boil them, fry them, scramble them, and some people even eat them raw. But however you choose to prepare your eggs, it’s one of the healthiest foods on the planet: jam-packed with lots of nutrients, but only 77 calories. Eggs contain Vitamin A, B5, B2, and B12. They also contain Folate, Phosphorous, and Selenium.
Who can hate pizza really? With hundreds of variations, pizza brings something to the table for everyone not on a gluten-free diet. Many college students order out for pizza, or even make it from scratch. But if you’re looking for great budget brands to buy from the frozen food aisle try Red Baron, Jack’s Pizza, and Tombstone.
Frozen pizzas could almost always use some extras though, so throw on some more cheese, an extra drizzle of pizza sauce, some ‘shrooms, onions, and sweet peppers to make them even tastier!
If you’re concerned about the health benefits, then consider the antioxidants from the tomato sauce; the protein, calcium, and iron from the meats and cheese; and fiber, vitamins and minerals from the vegetables.
An easy go-to meal in every walk of life, is pasta – whether you make it at home, or eat it at a five star restaurant. Pasta comes in many variations from the texture, color and size of the pasta itself; an army of sauces; and all the great things you can add to it.
Pasta can help students maintain a well-balanced diet in an era of one diet-fad after another. It provides carbs, as well as a healthy serving of vegetables and meats, depending on what you throw in.
Pasta options from Hamburger Helpers, and other brands like it, are also great for college students looking for fast and tasty pasta meals, with only a little preparation time. Vegetarians can substitute the ground beef with veggie crumbles.
1. Ramen Noodle
Without a doubt, the least healthy addition to the list, Ramen noodles are nonetheless a college favorite, and has been for years. This is because Ramen is easy to prepare, surprisingly filling, and extremely inexpensive all around the world.
To make this meal more healthy, many college students add vegetables, eggs, and meats to up the nutritional value. However, replacing either the noodles or the soup packet with pasta and seasonings at home, can work even better.
For students who prefer to eat it in its original form, do so sparingly, and substitute it as much as possible with other items on this list. Ramen is high in sodium, fat, and calories.
What other college favorites would you recommend? Share them in the comments below!
Special thanks to the following college students and graduates for contributing to the list.
About the Author
Alexis Chateau is the Founder of College Mate and Managing Director at Alexis Chateau PR. She is an activist, writer, and explorer. Follow her stories of trial and triumph at www.alexischateau.com.