Bread, vegetables, fruit, yogurt and deli meats are all options for mini refrigerators.
The first few weeks of college are exciting –– new friends, lifestyle and food. At first, it seems like the cafeteria options might never get old. After all, who could grow tired of a salad bar, MYO wrap station and ice cream bar? But after a bit of time, the average college student will tell you that the food in the dining hall always wears out its welcome.
Luckily, there's an app for that. Well, not exactly. There is, however, a solution and it comes in the form of a few simple food items that can be kept on hand whether you have a microwave, mini fridge, shared kitchen area on your floor or no appliances at all. Check out these solutions for do-it-yourself meal preparation and say goodbye to cafeteria food boredom.
If You Have a Microwave:
Sure, a microwave allows for frozen meals and experts say healthier choices, like Lean Cuisine, are a better choice when options are limited. Keep in mind, however, that these frozen dinners are typically loaded with sodium and should not be a regular choice. Stacey Burke, a nutrition educator and coach, said a microwave can also be used for quick, healthy meal ideas and additions, like vegetables.
"Vegetables can easily be steamed in the microwave," she said. "Just add a little water to a heat-safe dish and steam anything from broccoli or cauliflower to kale or spinach. Rice, couscous and quinoa are all healthy grains that can also be prepared simply by heating water to a boil in the microwave, and adding the grain to soak for 5 to ten minutes. Combine your steamed veggies and whole grains for a healthy microwave 'stir-fry'."
Registered dietitian Lisa Hugh also pointed out that eggs are simple to prepare in the microwave:
"Spray a bowl with cooking oil spray, stir egg or use a liquid egg substitute, and heat for 30 seconds," she said. "Check on it, stir and cook in 30 second increments until cooked. Eat with fresh vegetables, fruit or on a sandwich."
If You Have a Mini Refrigerator:
A small refrigerator can be a lifesaver when it comes to beating food boredom. Sophie Skover, who is known as "The Food Craving Coach" and author of "The Continuous Appetite," said whole grain bread, low-fat cheese, low-sodium deli meats and spinach are all food items that are easy to keep on hand for a quick sandwich.
Hugh said milk, soy milk, greek yogurt, baby carrots, cut celery and hummus are also ideal food options for a mini refrigerator.
If You Share a Kitchen With Your Floor:
Stock the kitchen with a cheap strainer and can opener that can be kept in your room or stored in a cabinet for the whole floor to share. Buy canned beans and vegetables, and a variety of spices that you can keep in your dorm closet and tote down to kitchen when you are ready for a fresh meal. Diane and Tom Griesel, co-authors of "TurboCharged" and "TurboCharged Recipes" said these healthy canned solutions make for an filling meal that can easily be prepared in a shared kitchen space.
Skover said reusable containers can also come in handy when using a shared kitchen space. Prepare chicken, eggs, rice, pasta or a salad within the space, and then store in containers for on-the-go options.
If You Don't Have Any Appliances:
Skover emphasizes that while the lack of available appliances might lead a student to more dining hall experiences, there are tricks for ensuring that a meal is healthy and satisfying.
"Use your meal plan and see your part broken into three parts: one for protein, one for veggies and one for a whole grain carbohydrate," she said. "Try to stick to that."
Fruit, water, raw nuts, protein bars and powders, vacuum packs of tuna or salmon, whole grain crackers, and almond or peanut butter are all healthy food options that can easily be stores in a dorm room closet with no refrigeration or tools for preparation required.
And always keep in mind, said Skover: "You can be healthy anywhere you go. All it takes is a little pre-thought, intention and follow through!"
- Steam veggies and store-bought boxes of rice or pasta in the microwave for an easy meal.
- Bread, vegetables, fruit, yogurt and deli meats are all options for mini refrigerators.
- Take advantage of kitchen tools, like a strainer or can opener, for use in a shared kitchen space.
- Raw nuts, protein bars, fruit and instant oatmeal are all food choices that can be stored in a dorm room.