Pizza, pasta, burgers, chicken sandwiches, onion rings, fries, soft serve ice cream, and other comfort foods make up your average dining hall menu.
While you may think the food is great for the first two weeks eating on a college campus, these options will soon be old news to your taste buds and your body.
Dining halls are notorious for serving food that doesn’t give you enough nutrients and makes you sluggish when you try to finish out the day.
And there’s no question that continually eating comfort foods will put you on the way to gaining unwanted weight. That’s why so many students are getting fat in college.
For evidence, one study from Cal Poly found that most campus dining halls are unhealthy. And this same study found that only 11 of the 31 main dish salads were healthy.
So even most of the seemingly healthy options in a campus diner are actually bad for you.
That’s why I wanted to help you by creating a list of easy healthy meals for college students.
It’s crucial that the meals are easy, so you don’t have to spend hours preparing the food. And it’s key that the meals are healthy so you can start eating for energy.
Once you get in the habit of making the following foods, you’ll become more fit, energized, and ready to take on college life.
Oatmeal – One of my personal favorites as a student—and a regular breakfast choice for me today—is oatmeal. It’s delicious, healthy, and super easy to make.
Buy the prepackaged Quaker instant oatmeal or some generic brand (I prefer apples and cinnamon), and add some peanut butter and a banana from the campus dining hall to make it even better.
Maybe oatmeal’s greatest contribution to your day is how quick you can make it. Just pour the oats in your bowl, put the recommended water in, and then microwave it for 60 seconds and it’s ready.
A meal like this saves you valuable time in the morning if you want to squeeze more sleep in before your first morning class. While I didn’t include a quick breakfast in my guide on time management strategies for college students, maybe I should have.
Smoothie – Everyone loves a good tasting and healthy smoothie. But did you know you can get this tasty drink in your college room? You can if you have a personal blender.
Get 3-5 ice cubes, fill half the blender in water, and add your fruits that you buy from the local grocery store or “borrow” from the campus dining hall. Blend it for a couple of seconds and then down the smoothie before class or take it with you to sip on during a lecture.
It’s that simple and takes no longer than 10 minutes if you’re working slow.
If you’re curious, my favorite smoothie is made of these ingredients: ice, water, banana, peanut butter, and Nutella. Try it out and you’ll see it’s delicious.
And if you don’t have a personal blender, you can get one from this back to college shopping list guide. It’s number 21 on the list, if you’re interested.
Nutella and fruit – Your sweet tooth will appreciate the taste of Nutella in the morning, and your body will appreciate the energy gained from the sugar in the fruit. This breakfast makes all parties happy.
You can try dipping strawberries, apples, bananas, raspberries, or blueberries into Nutella and see what you think. I’m not picky when it comes to Nutella, so I may be biased but I think all of them taste good.
Although Nutella is not the healthiest choice on the shelf, the fruit is healthy. So as long as you dip your fruit in a moderate amount of Nutella, then I’ll call it a healthy breakfast.
Eggs – Of course eggs are easier to make on a stove, but many freshman and sophomore college students don’t have that option. (If you do have a stove, then obviously make your eggs with a skillet and disregard the following information.)
However, you can still get your low-fat, low-calorie, and high protein eggs through the microwave in your room. First, crack your two to three eggs in a microwave safe bowl. Then place this bowl in the microwave for 60 to 120 seconds and you’re good to go!
If you hate the thought of your eggs sticking to your bowl, then buy cooking spray to prepare the bowl before you put your eggs in it. Or if you’re tired of plain eggs, add cheese or salsa to them to change things up for your taste buds.
I recognize that the dining hall serves eggs too, but these are usually gross since they sit out for hours before you eat them. And a dining hall doesn’t offer the convenience of cooking breakfast in your room.
Once you get breakfast out of the way, you’re free to prioritize the most important task on your to-do list.
Chicken – Chicken provides your body with protein, vitamins, minerals, and even cholesterol control among other advantages. If you can, eat as much chicken for your main dish as possible because it’s good for you.
Most college dorms have a community kitchen near the lobby or in the basement for residents to use. If you have this, then buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts that you can put in the refrigerator until you want to cook them on the stove.
It’s by no means the best way to do it, but if you’re in a tough spot then it’s also possible to cook your chicken in the microwave.
Buy the same boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Put them on a glass plate. Cover the plate with a plastic wrap and let one side of the wrap go untucked to release steam. Microwave on medium for around 15 minutes. Then cut the inside to check that it’s white and cooked. If it is, then you’re ready to dig in.
Avocado toast – Potentially a breakfast, lunch, or dinner food, avocado toast is a trendy and healthy choice.
A big popularity point for avocados is that they’re a superfood with high nutrients, potassium, fiber, acids for your heart, antioxidants, and more that I go on for days about.
The point is to give your body avocados on a regular basis if you know what’s good for you.
Plus, avocado toast is versatile as you can add feta cheese, strawberries, tomatoes, salsa and chips, eggs, or other creative ingredients. Have fun with it and change things up so the taste doesn’t get old.
My college didn’t allow toasters in the room, but they had a kitchen area where I used the toaster to make foods like this. So hopefully yours does too.
Sweet potato – Sweet potatoes are a great side dish offering powerful carbs and vitamins to your body that can’t be underrated.
All you need to do is to buy individual or packaged sweet potatoes. Wash one. Poke it around 6 to 10 times with a fork. Dry it. And then cook for around 6 minutes and 45 seconds.
Although this isn’t your instant oatmeal or rice, spending a little under 7 minutes for a solid sweet potato is nothing to complain about.
If you pair it with another one of these lunch or dinner foods, or eat it on its own as a snack, you can’t go wrong. And this will be much healthier than the mozzarella sticks, or some other fattening side, at a campus diner.
Greek yogurt and granola – Fill your stomach in the afternoon with some low-sugar and high-protein Greek yogurt and granola. Not many foods get as much attention as Greek yogurt across the internet and television, but that’s because it’s great at helping you lose unwanted fat.
I personally love granola with my yogurt. But you could add honey or some fruit to your Greek yogurt to knock this meal out of the park just as well.
When choosing your Greek yogurt, check the nutrition label and avoid the high in sugar and low in fat options. These are not the healthy choice you’re looking for in your diet, and would give you the opposite result desired: more fat and processed ingredients in your body.
And this is another kind of meal that you can grab on the go and eat in the car or during class. Just don’t get caught with your mouth full of yogurt when you’re called on to answer a question.
Salmon – Salmon is undoubtedly my favorite food because of its taste, texture, and health benefits. Its protein increases performance and your brain’s health, while its high levels of omega 3 fatty acids lower the risk of heart disease.
It’s basically Superman on a plate!
And in about three minutes, the frozen salmon you took from the freezer to put in the microwave can turn into a properly cooked and flaky dinner that tastes just like the same $20 high-end restaurant dish.
Maybe the only weakness of microwave salmon is the odor it leaves behind. Your roommate, housemates, or dorm friends could come banging on your door to yell, “What is that smell? Did someone die in there?
But that’s when you yell back, “I’m eating healthy, get over it!”
Brown rice – Brown rice is the sidekick to your main dish that gives you energy and helps your body create muscle. That’s why you see bodybuilders eat chicken and rice, but you don’t have to compete in bodybuilding to take the benefits of brown rice.
Like some other quick options on this list, you can buy instant ready rice that takes anywhere from 60 to 90 seconds. This way you can eat quickly and get on your way to what you need or want to do next.
I’ll note that white rice is acceptable too, it’s just not as healthy as brown rice from my research.
Peanut butter and honey sandwich – Peanut butter boasts high protein, fiber, magnesium, and other nutrients that keep your body healthy while protecting it from major diseases. For example, peanut butter is proven to decrease the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Then you mix in honey with its carbohydrates that your body turns into energy and uses to help your muscles. For those two reasons, I love this basic meal.
And if you want to be an all-star, get multigrain bread instead of white bread. Your body will feel overwhelmed in a good way with all the healthy nutrients.
Steamed bag of vegetables – There’s a healthy eating sentiment that recommends people cover half their plate in vegetables (and fruits) for a reason.
Vegetables give your body vital nutrients, fibers, and vitamins that it needs for proper maintenance. And consuming a heavy dose of vegetables may reduce the chances of getting a stroke, cancer, heart diseases and type-2 diabetes.
When you’re at the grocery, look for the different frozen packages that can be microwaved like: broccoli; cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots; corn and carrots; and edamame.
Throw it in the microwave for the required time and presto—you have your healthy vegetables ready to go.
You’ve accomplishing finding a list of easy healthy meals for college students, but now it’s time to execute. You need to take what you’ve learned and apply it to your life to get the results you want.
And if eating healthy is completely new to you, then I encourage you to take small steps.
Start with eating super healthy for breakfast for week one. Then for week two, advance to eat healthy for breakfast and lunch. And on week three go for eating healthy every meal.
The hardest part is the beginning. But if you can overcome that initial change and get in a routine, you’ll be so satisfied with your internal and external progress.
Are you ready now? Let’s start eating healthy today.
On this list of easy healthy meals for college students, what is your favorite option? Are there other foods for your dorm room or college house that should be added to this list?