Cooking for college students—quick, healthy recipes you can make

Dorm life cookingWhen it comes to food and college students, what one imagines isn’t cooking at all, but the stereotypical stacks of pizza boxes. Whether or not that imagery is accurate, your dining life on campus doesn’t have to be confined to the local delivery joint and the dining hall. Cooking for college students in not an oxymoron. In fact, there are many quick, healthy recipes that you can make (yes, you!) with just a little creativity and preparation. No, you probably won’t be trying out for Iron Chef any time soon, but cooking in college doesn’t have to be like an episode of Hell’s Kitchen either.

Dorm-based options

Depending on the age of your dorm, you may not have a private kitchen, but most offer some sort of kitchen facility in each hall. See what is available for communal use, and then investigate what your college will allow you to have in your dorm room. Microwaves are usually ok, but a toaster oven or a hot plate may be a no-go. Better to find out before purchasing something you can’t use.

Once you know what you have to work with, you need some inspiration. Kiri Tannenbaum wrote “Cooking 101: Tips and Recipes for  College Students” on to give ideas for quick, healthy recipes you can make. One suggestion? Keep the basics on hand—from utensils such as bowls and silverware to pantry staples like beans and your favorite seasonings. And while it might seem to be cheaper to hit the dollar menu at your favorite drive through, Tannenbaum writes, “it’s more economical (and healthier) to make your own meals.”

One pot and go

Of course, the faster you can throw some food together and come up with something delicious, the better, right? Now add into that quick, healthy recipes that don’t cost a lot and you have really hit the jackpot. Deborah Goldstein posted on December 10, 2010, “7 Quick Recipes For Healthy, Easy, One-Pot Meals Under $10,” on with some great suggestions that you can make.

  1. Pork Chili—In only one hour and fifteen minutes you can be chowing down on some delicious chili. Best of all, only 20 minutes of that time requires real work, the rest of it is just letting the stove do its thing.
  2. Penne Pasta—Get your Italian fix with this easy, peasy recipe that only takes 25 minutes.
  3. Oatmeal—Yes, you can’t forget breakfast, the “most important meal of the day.” Fancy up your morning nosh with some dried fruit and a few chopped nuts.
  4. Baked Sausage & Peppers—Easily convertible to a strict veggie dish for your non-meat loving friends, this one-pot meal is rich and yummy.
  5. Wheat Berry Risotto—Don’t be intimidated by risotto, all it takes is constant stirring to create a creamy, dreamy dish that will wow your friends.
  6. Festive Rice—Another great option that is entirely meat free but packed with flavor and protein in the form of white or black beans.
  7. Lamb Stew—Warm up on a cold night with some decadent and hearty stew that will only take you 20 minutes to assemble.

While these recipes weren’t conceived with cooking for college students in mind, each is certainly doable depending on your kitchen situation. Several would adapt very easily to a crock pot, if you happen to have one.

Dining hall dilemmas

Maybe you are still a little skittish about the whole cooking thing. Maybe you question your ability to make anything. Whatever is holding you back from stirring up some quick, healthy recipes on your own, don’t despair. There is still always the dining hall.

The key to eating right in the dining hall is a little advance planning. The blog, Cooking in College, offers an infographic, “Surviving the College Dining Hall,” that provides some tips and suggestions for not only how to eat better from the array of options, but also includes suggestions on how to pick the best meal plan for your needs. The infographic advises college students to ditch soda for water and also to slow down when eating. It suggests cutting back on the amount of condiments you use and loading up on fruits and veggies to avoid weight gain (about which the infographic says 20% of freshman tack on 10 pounds due to “skipped meals, alcohol intake, high calorie foods, lack of sleep, and increased stress”).

How have you gotten creative when it comes to eating (and eating right!) as a college student? Leave your thoughts and suggestions for your hungry brethren hoping to avoid the freshman 15 in the comments below.

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