Ask the Dietitian: How do I eat healthy while living in a college dorm room?

January 30th, 2013

Q: I am a college student and don’t have the option of cooking and preparing my own meals. What are some healthy eating ideas in my situation?

A: I completely understand your situation; in college I lived in the dorms for two years and the only cooking apparatus I had access to was a microwave.

If you are eating meals in the cafeteria, here are some healthy eating tips:

  • For breakfast, opt for a whole-grain cereal with skim milk or scrambled eggs with whole-grain toast and a piece of fruit.
  • Avoid eating dessert with every meal. I know, all those sweets look delicious.
  • If your college cafeteria offers stir-fry, give it a try! This is a great meal that combines lean protein with vegetables.
  • Try the salad bar. Most college cafeterias switch up their salad bar options so there is always something new to try. Note:  limit the salad dressing and bacon bits!
  • Do not take more than you can eat. Yes, most college students are strapped for cash and want to get their money’s worth in the cafeteria. This being said, stuffing yourself during every meal will only contribute to that “freshman fifteen.”

If you have access to a mini-fridge and a microwave, here are some easy, healthy meal and snack ideas you can prepare in your dorm room:

  • Breakfast burrito
    • Scramble 2 eggs in a microwave-safe dish with 1 tablespoon milk and 2 tablespoons shredded cheese. Microwave for 2-3 minutes or until eggs are set.
    • Wrap in a whole-grain tortilla and top with salsa.
  • Yogurt parfait
    • Place 1 cup Greek yogurt (such as Chobani) in a bowl or cup; top with 1 cup Kashi Go-Lean Cereal and 1 cup fruit of your choice.
  • Sandwich
    • On 2 pieces of whole-grain bread, add 3 slices of lean deli meat (such as Di Lusso turkey, ham or roast beef), 1 slice of cheese and vegetables of choice. Instead of mayo, spread mustard or hummus on the bread.
  • Homemade trail mix
    • This was a go-to item in between classes for me. 
    • Combine Kashi Go Lean Cereal, your choice of nuts (such as almonds, pistachios, pecans, walnuts, etc.), dried fruit and dark chocolate chips. Portion into snack-sized baggies.
  • Food to keep on hand in your dorm room:
    • Almonds
    • Apples and bananas
    • Beef jerky
    • Eggs
    • Frozen vegetables (varieties that come in a steam-ready bag are very convenient)
    • Greek yogurt
    • Hummus
    • Lean deli meat
    • Natural peanut butter (such as Old Home)
    • Oatmeal
    • Salsa
    • Snack bars (such as Kashi or PureFit bars)
    • String cheese
    • Whole-grain bread
    • Whole-grain chips (such as Food Should Taste Good Chips)

Reader, what is your favorite healthy food for a college dorm room?

 

48 Responses to “Ask the Dietitian: How do I eat healthy while living in a college dorm room?”

  1. Greg Jorgensen says:

    What is the difference in “Natural peanut butter” vs. regular Skippy or Jiff? What am I looking for on the label of peanut butter to know if it’s good?

    • Excellent question, especially since “natural” is such an ambiguous word. Look for a peanut butter that does not contain any hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oils, which are oils that have been altered in order to extend the product’s shelf life (these oils are trans-fats and are not healthy). Natural peanut butters should contain just peanuts and a little salt; some will contain a small amount of honey (which is my favorite!).

  2. I love keeping walnuts on hand as a wonderful snack and source of omega 3 Dried fruit like apricots are also great because they’re easy to store and last – but must be eaten sparingly because of the high sugar.

  3. I love the breakfast burrito it good and its also easy to eat on the go. I use a natural brain juice instead of the energy drinks or coffee in the moring and it works for me.

  4. Good food that doesn’t need too much refrigeration is great for a dorm room and will be good choices if you take an office job when you graduate. Its always good to have some thing you don’t get from a vending machine handy.

  5. Making sure you get a good mix of all the macro-nutrients is important. Too many students rely heavily on carbs. Handy protein choices will give you longer energy thru all your classes.

  6. I am also a college student. I try to eat healthy food by cooking myself. I have downloaded some great apps on my iPad and there are great recipes with video showing step by step how to cook certain meals.

  7. As a college student, I can vouch it can be very difficult to eat healthy. Thanks for the great post, I will definitely try some of these!

  8. Nilesh says:

    I think peanut butter is the most nutritious thing to eat in breakfast Plus i always put some almonds in my pocket and chew them regularly… that is why I’m living a healthy life :-)
    nice tips… thanks for sharing :-)

  9. Dot Card says:

    Cheese is a great source of protein and calcium as well. String and cottage cheeses are effortless to keep in a refrigerator, while spreads or wedges make hearty snacks when eaten with whole wheat crackers. I love it.

  10. Peanut butter is always good! Can’t help but eat the whole jar at times.

  11. Anna says:

    Bags of nuts and raisins are handy for snacks because they are healthy, and keep very well.

    Honey, makes a great spread and can be used as sweetener on cereals or drinks, and it makes a great face mask for the girls.

    Tins of baked beans are great too, quick to heat up, they can be eaten hot with toast or cold tasty is good too.

    Breakfast cereals, most are pretty healthy and of course can be eaten anytime, I often used to eat cornflakes for supper :-)

  12. Filebook says:

    Very informative. I will definitely eat the above mentioned healthy foods. I think I need to start loosing some weights now :)

  13. miguel says:

    my breakfast

    Eggs Ole
    Ingredients
    2 large eggs
    2 teaspoons salsa
    1 tablespoon guacamole
    Make It
    I love it ,help me during my office journey

  14. saravanan says:

    I love the breakfast burrito it good and its also easy to eat on the go.

  15. I think peanut butter is the most nutritious thing to eat in breakfast Plus

  16. Can’t wait to try those for breakfast. Thanks for the helpful post!

  17. Shreddybrek says:

    Excellent list. When I was at University(from the UK) would take oats in milk in canisters for carbs, and mix them with protein powder. Flapjacks were a good cheap carb source. Cottage cheese was an ideal snack for eating just before a lecture would start

  18. Mark says:

    I remember my college days not being as healthy as this! Trying to pass better advice onto my son, so ill let him know about these ideas.

  19. Anastasia says:

    Greek yoghurt is so nice.. I remember eating it almost everyday in my dorm. Even frozen.

  20. Wow, remembering all this crappy meals that i eat in my college days. Oh, what a shame, that i didn’t read this article 10 years ago))

  21. Excellent list. When I was at University(from the UK) would take oats in milk in canisters for carbs, and mix them with protein powder. Flapjacks were a good cheap

  22. Lucy says:

    Wow I eat a lot of sandwiches.

  23. Very helpful.
    Natural juice instead of the energy drinks or coffee in the moring and it works for me.

  24. Cmd Hacks says:

    I am a college student and frankly saying the tips you provided is amazing!!
    I use almonds to eat in morning … thanks a tons!!

  25. good dentist says:

    I love parfaits and find I can keep of the freshman fifteen if I use this. I have a sweet tooth so adding some strawberries always rounded that out for me. Thanks.

  26. click here says:

    Natural juice instead of the energy drinks or coffee in the moring :)

  27. Sujan says:

    Hi, I am a student. I have read your post. It is really help me. Thanks a lot.

  28. nolan smith says:

    As it is said “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” it has really vital nutrition’s that our body needs.Thanks for your wonderful list of diet.

  29. Bobby Jones says:

    i started to begin juicing wheatgrass at my college dorm room. Are wheat grass and barley grass gluten-free? Thank You

    • Bobby,

      Wheat grass and barley grass should not contain gluten because the grass is cultivated before the grain (gluten-containing) portion of the plant has a chance to develop. That being said, someone with celiac disease should be cautious of the where the grass came from to insure that cross-contamination did not occur.

  30. Payal says:

    My brother is a college student, It becomes really difficult to have healthy food at hostel.
    Thanks for the great post, I am definitely going to forward this post to my bro… Thanx

  31. Koce says:

    Hi, I am a student. I have read your post. It is really help me ;)

  32. Medi says:

    Some of my cousins are college students and they eat very unhealthy foods especially for breakfast. Thank you very much for this informative post. I need to talk to my cousins and give them some suggestions thanks to you :)

  33. Very informative article. Most students tend to overindulge while in college. Great food everywhere. What more can one ask for?

  34. nature syrup says:

    its not about home or collage if you are willing to eat healthy and take a balanced diet you can get it anywhere. Start your day with a fresh fruits rather then just fruit juice it will fill you up as well as you will get the essential fibers which you don’t get in the canned juices.

  35. excellent article for students. Student who were living separated from the family for the education not getting health food sometime. They use to have jungle food and sometime leads to some diseases too. this article will a great toll for such students

  36. roselee says:

    I think almonds are very good for health.You can have them. And mainly fruits which is the best food.

  37. Great list. I try to eat healthy food by cooking myself, to get the nutrients in the morning, I often consume oatmeal and fruits that rich in vitamins. Thanks for the helpful post!

  38. Michael says:

    Im student actually, and I find this artice very helpful. Thank you ;)

  39. Thanks for this post . I am also student (studying law school) . You recipes looks also very tasty!

  40. ONP Hospital says:

    Its a very useful information for all college students, living outside or the students who are working outside and are staying away from home.
    The key ingredient to stay healthy is not to skip any meal, take meals thrice a day properly. Take a balanced diet with appropriate nutrients, proteins & the food which is rich in fibre content also. Don’t forget to drink 2-3 Litres of Water everyday.

  41. Toni says:

    I think that too many students rely heavily on carbs. Handy protein choices will give you longer energy thru all your classes.

  42. We students have one area that presents us with a greater challenge than most others face, and that’s eating well. As I can tell you from three years of experience, it can be pretty darn hard to eat well as a college student.

    College just seems to throw up a lot of roadblocks to healthy eating that non-students don’t seem to have to deal with, including super-tight budgets, lack of cooking tools, and ridiculously busy schedules.
    You really explain everything very nicely.

  43. Amit says:

    When I was in college, I don’t take care of my self. My ignorance make me ill. Healthy and nutritious diet is must in this age and also for better future, we must take care of our self. Thanks for diet suggestion for college guys.

  44. healanyone says:

    Wonderful post I’d say.

    It’s really important for college students to maintain health and diet too.

    Thanks

  45. B.S. Rajput says:

    This is nice information to all those people who are unable to cooking & preparing meals.

  46. healthplan says:

    Happiness depends on health. So how we can fit our health. Your guideline is so much helpful to keep you body fit.

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