Whether you’re off to college for the first time or returning to campus, don’t forget to pack that college dorm mini-fridge that will be your lifesaver for late-night study snacks and mid-afternoon cravings. If you want to avoid putting on “the Freshman 15” and stay healthy, you need a plan for stocking that refrigerator with the best possible foods.
First, you want to focus on whole, nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, proteins and good fats. Read labels to determine ingredients and nutritional content in packaged foods. A rule of thumb: If you can’t pronounce it, you probably don’t want to eat it.
Second, you need to make a shopping list of essential refrigerated and shelf stable foods. College food doesn’t have to be mac and cheese or ramen noodles anymore. Even without a kitchen, you can use a microwave, hot pot and blender to whip up figure friendly and satisfying snacks, beverages and mini meals.
Greek Yogurt — It’s dairy that packs a protein punch. The average serving has between 12-17 grams of protein. Plus, it’s easier to digest even if you are lactose intolerant.
String cheese — Light, reduced fat versions are perfect for on-the-go snacking. Choose mozzarella, cheddar, or a mixture of the two. Munch on them from the package or cut them up and melt them into your creations.
Hummus — Also high in protein and fiber, hummus is a versatile super food. You can use it as a healthy substitute for mayonnaise in tuna salad. Spread it on pita bread. Mix it with broth or water and it becomes salad dressing. Dip your raw veggies in it too.
Almond milk — Full of vitamins and minerals and 50% lower in calories than cow’s milk, almond milk is the perfect addition to smoothies, oatmeal and cereal. It’s also lactose free and tastes good in coffee.
Edamame — You can buy these soybeans shelled or in the pod, fresh or frozen. Naturally gluten-free and low in calories, edamame contains no cholesterol and is an excellent source of protein, iron, and calcium. It can also help boost your immune system.
Eggs — You can scramble eggs in a cup and then microwave them for an easy breakfast. You can also soft or hard boil them in a hot pot for a protein-rich snack.
Fresh fruit — Apples, peaches, oranges, blueberries, grapes, cherries, and raspberries all are great for eating alone or adding to fruit smoothies or overnight refrigerator oatmeal. If you buy prepackaged fruit cups, select those packed in unsweetened juice. You won’t miss the extra sugar.
Fresh vegetables — Bags of baby carrots or carrot dipper snack packs with Ranch dressing can satisfy your need to crunch. Many grocery stores offer variety packs of raw cut veggies like carrots, celery and peppers that are perfect for snacking or even adding to your cooking creations.
With these refrigerated items, you can make many simple recipes with the right nonperishable staples below.
Cereal — Whole grain, ready-to-eat cereals with 10 grams of sugar or less per serving are best. Whole grain oats offer many tasty options for overnight refrigerator oatmeal (no cooking required.) Simply add your favorite fruits, yogurt, or nut butters and you have a delicious, nourishing breakfast.
Nuts, Seeds and Nut Butters — A powerful source of proteins and good fat, seeds, nuts and nut butters keep you satisfied longer. Almonds, walnuts, pistachios, and cashews are all great in moderation. Science links their consumption to better health overall, so feel free to spread almond or natural peanut butter on your apple slices, rice cakes, or celery sticks.
Whole wheat tortillas, pitas, and english muffins — Whether you’re bundling breakfast burritos or wrapping up sandwiches, tortillas are versatile and easy to use. Similarly, pitas can be stuffed with your favorites or dipped in hummus. English muffins can be used for egg sandwiches, tuna melts, peanut butter and jelly, and even mini microwave pizzas.
Salsa — You can use for dipping or topping some of your favorite foods. While fresh salsa is always better, this nutritious, low-fat condiment is rich in Vitamin C and beta carotene.
Snack Products — Pass on the potato chips and go for the kale chips, microwave popcorn, pretzels, and turkey jerky. A great pick-me-up chockfull of antioxidants, dried fruits like apricots, raisins, and figs contain beta carotene, vitamin E, niacin, iron, magnesium, potassium and calcium. Mix them with nuts and mood-boosting cacao nibs and you’ve got your own healthful trail mix.
Green Tea — Green tea is loaded with antioxidants and nutrients that improve brain function and fat loss. With less caffeine than coffee, it will still keep you sharp on those late nights studying.
All books are available at amazon.com. Click on title to learn more.
Quick and Easy College Cookbook
by Adam Medea
$5 A Meal College Cookbook
byRhonda Lauret Parkinson
by Eleanor Voss Whitney
The College Student’s Guide to Eating Well on Campus
by Ann Selkowitz Litt
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