Finding healthy college meals for students can be difficult when most of the food in the food court, and in surrounding restaurants, is either orange chicken, burgers and fries, or ice cream. It’s not that you don’t know what a salad is when you go to the grocery store, but rather that it’s hard to beat the convenience of a ready-made, hot meal — no matter the price.
The key is less. Finding healthy college meals is about simplicity, where you don’t need to shop for 10-12 ingredients per meal, but can make delicious and affordable meals with just a few ingredients. If it is not simple, a cooking effort is likely doomed to fail, especially while you are focusing on the stress of school. Below is a list of 10 ideas for students looking for healthy college meals that don’t cost a ton. This list is conscious of simplicity, from a few variants of salads to burritos and smoothies, to even a quick homemade pizza.
Salads are all about sustenance. Oftentimes people make salads that just aren’t filling, or tasty. With a bed of fresh greens, a finely chopped bell pepper, a cucumber, a handful of black olives, and a drizzle of dressing, you are well on your way to making a filling, nutritious salad.
It has enough salt and fat to satisfy the stomach, and enough veggies to refresh your mind. If you are feeling a little more adventurous, consider adding some meat — whether it be chicken or fish of some kind — for some additional protein.
Get a can of beans (pinto, black, or kidney) and some corn to mix in a saucepan. You can use either ground beef or chicken to mix with them. Once cooked you can add to a bed of greens with some tomatoes and a bit of salsa and you have a quick taco salad.
You can add black olives or avocado too if you want an additional ingredient. If you have a little more time beforehand, you can saute a dash of bell pepper and onion with the meat. Taco salad is a classic for a reason and can be easily made as often as you like.
Most smoothies are very high in sugar and are going to make you feel lethargic after you’ve crashed. This one still has some sweetness but is going to keep you a little more even-keeled. You can use sweetened or unsweetened coconut or almond milk. Regular milk can be fine too. Add a handful of fresh spinach and some kale, with some blueberries and strawberries, to make an invigorating shake.
If you have protein powder you can add a scoop and you will have enough fuel for several hours. Many of these fruits are interchangeable, blackberries, and raspberries being options too, but berries, in general, spike your blood sugar much less than many other fruits, so they are good options for longer-lasting, stable energy.
Pizza on a Tortilla
No one should have to go without pizza, especially college students. Though this may just be a bonafide quesadilla, it’s a good one. You can make one or two with giant tortillas, or several with smaller ones.
Spread some marinara sauce on a tortilla, add some cheese, and you already have a simple pizza. Whether you’re adding mushrooms or peppers, sausage, or pepperoni, the options are endless, it is a very easy and, dare we say, healthy meal for college students to make. You can even make a breakfast pizza with eggs and bacon. What combination will you make?
Though burritos do not usually take a long time to make, they often have lots of ingredients that can make for arduous preparation. This burrito uses most of the ingredients from the taco salad mentioned above and puts them in a tortilla.
Whether you’re making a turkey, chicken, beef, or bean burrito, mix in a pan with some corn and beans (if you’re not already making a bean burrito) and, if you add some cheese, you already have a burrito. Like the taco salad and the pizza, the options for additional ingredients are endless, you can even add enchilada sauce, put it in the oven, and you have fast enchiladas.
If you want a little more luxurious of a burrito, saute some vegetables with your meat, lay down some refried beans in your tortilla, and grill in on the stove with some olive oil or butter for a grilled-cheese burrito.
Don’t Discount The Sandwich
You can start with a tuna melt. Get fresh or canned tuna, some sourdough bread buttered for the stove, and, after grilling, add a fresh tomato slice and a cool pickle for a salty crunch.
This is a quick and easy sandwich that will taste amazing and give the nutrients you need . The same can be done with ham and swiss — or really any sandwich. You can choose not to grill it and go with a classic BLT too. For a twist, try adding pesto instead of mayonnaise.. Though it’s green, it’s salty, filling, and a great complement to any sandwich.
Pesto Chicken Pasta
While on the topic of pesto, adding it to a chicken pasta can be a much healthier substitute for a preservative-filled, canned alfredo sauce or high sugar spaghetti sauce.
Cook up some noodles of your choice, add some grilled or baked chicken seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic, and then throw in a generous serving of pesto (put in slightly less than a traditional alfredo or marinara sauce). Add some mozzarella or parmesan — or both — and enjoy a savory spin on the classic “spaghetti” dish.
College students need their healthy meals easy, and nothing is as easy or complete as a crock pot roast. You can go with the classic beef “chuck” roast, or use chicken breast as the base.
Throw in some carrots, potatoes, and onions — as well as a hefty amount of seasoning (and don’t forget the broth!), and then forget it about it for the next several hours. When you come back you’ll have a tender, deeply seasoned meal that will literally make your mouth water.
Few things are as satisfying as getting some fresh ground beef, mixing in some colorful ingredients, and cooking a great burger. When you get your ground beef, put it in a bowl with chopped onions, cheese cubes, and maybe even some cooked bacon — or jalapenos if you are feeling brave.
Cooking stuffed burgers can be a little tricky depending on how thick they are, so make sure you give them time enough to merge all the ingredients before pulling it off the stove or grill. Add in some tomatoes (and maybe a pickle) and you are almost ready to go.
You can resort to the definitive bun and ketchup, or you can be a little more adventurous with dressings, avocados, or even pesto with some bread — or in a salad if you are trying to avoid carbs.
Eggs and Potatoes
Eggs and potatoes are the staple of most breakfast dishes for a reason. They are cheap, incredibly versatile, easy to make, and fundamentally tasty — making them the base for another ideal healthy college meal.
For a little variety, you can put in some chopped onions, peppers, bacon bits, and cheese to bring your eggs to life. Salt and pepper are a must and, if you want to spice up your eggs some more, there are plenty of hot sauces to go around several times.
Avocados and salsa go great with eggs — especially if you mix them together to make some quick guacamole — and eggs can give you the nutrition you need any time of the day; whether it be breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a midnight snack during finals; though you’ll probably order pizza for that!